What do HBO, FX, Showtime, and AMC all have in common? They are TV networks that are home to prestige dramas. Spike has never been in that category of TV channels with high quality dramas, and that’s why Viacom is ditching the teenagers who watch Spike for the adults who watch HBO.
Viacom has made it official that next year, it will be rebranding Spike as the Paramount Network. The plans were announced Thursday, along with a new slate of three programs that will debut in early 2018.
In the line-up are “Heathers,” an adaptation of the 1980s cult classic; “Waco,” a six-part series based on the 1993 standoff between federal agents and cult leader David Koresh; and “American Woman,” a half-hour show based on the life of Kyle Richards, a star of “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Paramount will also air a documentary on Martin Luther King Jr.
This has been rumored for a while, however on Thursday it was made official.
The switch from Spike to Paramount is very noteworthy, but not all of Spike’s programming is going away. Lip Sync Battle, Bar Rescue, and Ink Master will return for new seasons, along with the Viacom-owned Bellator MMA.
So Kay looked for shows that could speak to a broader audience like “Lip Sync Battle,” the popular reality TV show in which celebrities dress up and pretend to sing along to hit music. The show, hosted by rapper-turned-actor LL Cool J and model Chrissy Teigen, is one of three reality programs that will endure under the Paramount name, along with “Bar Rescue” and “Ink Master.”
The Paramount Network will be one of Viacom’s six flagship channels according to new Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. Some of the other top networks Bakish is speaking of include TV Land and CMT. Oddly enough, American Woman and Heathers, both of which will debut on Paramount, were originally written for TV Land, according to Spike head Kevin Kay, who also leads TV Land and CMT.
One of the biggest reasons for the change is that Viacom wants to target more adults and less teenage men.
“Young men were starting to leave TV,” Kay said in an interview. “Young males are looking for other ways to experience content. They are on their phone. They are using a DVR. The truth is, no matter what we did, we weren’t going to grow.”
Spike was first launched in 1983 as The Nashville Network, a country music based channel, and was bought by Viacom in the 1990s. It was late rebranded into its current form in 2003. Spike will release one more new show this year based on a Stephen King novel before Paramount takes over next year.
According to Viacom, it hopes to eventually run eight scripted shows a year.
“We have to carve out our own space,” Kay said. “Viacom is very committed to this. We can’t put a Paramount network on TV and not have it be successful.”
With networks like HBO, Showtime, AMC, and FX continually churning out hits and streaming services Netflix and Amazon doing the same, it’ll be interesting to see how the new Paramount Network fares. For now, starting fresh and rebranding is probably a good start. I can’t imagine trying to watch a prestige drama knowing that immediately after I can watch a bunch of drunk people star in Jail: Las Vegas.