Q&A: Kevin Kay

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Kevin Kay, who's been president of Spike TV since October 2007, has quickly morphed into being more than merely the top executive of a male-targeted network; he's earned the nickname "King of All Men," thanks to the 5-year-old channel's irreverent approach to marketing toward a testosterone-driven crowd. Prior to his appointment, Kay served as the channel's executive vp and general manager for two years, helping cement Spike's standing as the go-to place for guys. He spoke with The Hollywood Reporter's Ray Richmond.

Hollywood Reporter: One perception is that Spike is the most sexist, misogynistic television network on the cable dial. What's it like presiding over all that?

Kevin Kay: (Laughs.) Well, I wouldn't necessarily characterize us as that at all. What we're really about is providing an alternative for guys who like to be entertained in a no-bullcrap way and have a sense of humor about themselves. Appreciating women is a part of that.

THR: Have you had to fight the perception that an all-men's channel would be shallow and sexist?

Kay: The focus groups on Madison Avenue told us we had a low-rent image. And, frankly, we resented that. So we put our heads together to change that and came up with an overall concept based on action. So action became the glue that holds it all together.

THR: It's not just about wrestling, video games and macho posing?

Kay: No. What we've really done is position ourselves as a smart alternative for guys. When we started out five years ago, we tossed everything against the wall to see what would stick. That meant stuff like "Tripped Out: The Ultimate Guy Vacation" and a bunch of lifestyle stuff. We programmed in a lot of different genres. But as we evolved, we started thinking about bigger and more pure entertainment for guys. That's where the Ultimate Fighting Championship came from. We got more focused; our mantra became "Fewer, bigger, better."

THR: What's the brand identity you want your audiences to have of Spike today?

Kay: We want them to know we understand they don't want to come home from a tough day at the office and have to watch some serious relationship/emotional growth story. We pride ourselves on there being no emotional growth at Spike. We don't try to pull anything over on our audience. It's all about testosterone. We're for guys. We don't apologize for it.

THR: Yet you maintain that Spike can be classy at the same time?

Kay: Absolutely. I think we've raised the bar. We bought the "Star Wars" movies, which are a pretty high-class property. And believe it or not, the UFC has a very affluent viewership. Not every guy can afford to spend $1,000 for a front-row seat at a UFC event, particularly in our target demographic of 18-34.

THR: Considering that youthful target audience, the off-net "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" run seems incongruous.

Kay: That property was actually acquired while we were still TNN. I'm not sure we would do it now. But we're very happy to have the "CSI" franchise. It brings a tremendous number. Is it the perfect Spike show? No. But it isn't as if it totally conflicts, either.

THR: You've got two new pilots for potential series: "River Men" and "USA vs. the World." They seem to hew closer to the UFC side of the audience than the "CSI" side. Are shows like that the way to goose ratings?

Kay: We're looking now to drive home what we are and let the programming and brand speak for themselves. We don't feel that we're repeating ourselves, but moving into new territory. Whatever we do from here, it's all about keeping it fun, light, tongue-in-cheek. Guys don't want to plop down on that couch and be tortured with male sensitivity issues. We'll leave that to the other folks.
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