3:51pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
Spike TV to Become Paramount Network in Viacom Rebranding (Exclusive)
There's a big change coming to Spike TV.
Viacom's male-focused cable network, home to Lip Sync Battle, is expected to be rebranded as the Paramount Network, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. A formal announcement will likely come Thursday morning when Viacom unveils its turnaround plan during its quarterly earnings call.
Sources tell THR that Spike chief Kevin Kay — who recently added oversight of CMT and TV Land to his purview of the Global Entertainment Group — is expected to remain in place. The rebranding could begin as early as 2018, sources say, and no personnel changes are expected to be made at this time. Representatives for Viacom and Spike declined comment, though a formal rollout strategy is expected to be part of Thursday's call.
It's unclear what the rebranding would mean for Spike's current lineup, which includes upcoming scripted foray The Mist as well as unscripted hits Bar Rescue, Ink Master, Lip Sync Battle and more. Newly minted Viacom CEO Bob Bakish is said to be plotting a strategy for the company that's similar to the ultra-synergistic Walt Disney Co. in creating branded entertainment that can be exploited across platforms. To that end, Disney has had great success around its namesake network.
Such a move would more strongly align the TV group with the film studio, and allow Paramount to better define itself in a crowded era. It's no secret that the studio, like the channels, has struggled in recent years; in January, Bakish had to brush off reports that Viacom was considering a sale of Paramount — assuring a crowd at a programming conference that the brand will be "a much more integral part of Viacom moving forward."
This year is shaping up to be a big one for cable rebrandings. Just last week, Oxygen confirmed its shift to a crime-focused network, and it followed cable sibling Esquire's decision to abandon its linear channel. By the same token, the future of some of Viacom's more niche cable brands have been speculated about as the cable ecosystem braces for a potential a la carte world.
Whatever Viacom's plans entail, Bakish has wasted no time in shaking up the executive roster. After a year of a great many changes at the individual networks, Doug Herzog, formerly president of the music and entertainment group, exited Viacom in December after a decades-long tenure overseeing such networks as MTV, VH1, Logo, Spike and Comedy Central.