Viacom to Launch Paramount Network in U.K.

The Mick Still H 2016

The free-to-air channel is "set to deliver high-end Hollywood entertainment with blockbuster movies, scripted drama and critically acclaimed comedy featuring some of the biggest names on the planet."

Viacom is bringing the Paramount Network to the U.K.

The "brand new free-to-air U.K. destination offering premium scripted drama, high-quality comedy and movies featuring some of the brightest stars" will launch on July 4, it unveiled on Friday. "It’s the channel with big stories and big characters for adults of all ages with strong appeal to Generation X, millennials and fans of cinematic storytelling, iconic moments and non-stop action."

The channel, to launch in Britain on Sky, BT and Freeview, will be scheduled and programmed by the Channel 5 editorial team under the direction of Ben Frow, Channel 5 director of programs.

The company started launching the Paramount Channel as a movie-centric network in international markets a few years ago. It then launched the Paramount Network in the U.S. in January to replace Spike, with the company saying it would roll it out in international markets over time. The international rollout is being overseen by Jill Offman, executive vp, Comedy Central and Paramount Network International.

Spain last month was announced as the first of 12 international territories where the existing Paramount Channel would be rebranded as Paramount Network. It also marked the first step in aligning programming on the international channels with the U.S. network's programming focus on scripted and nonscripted movie and TV series.

But the U.K. Paramount Network is the first such launch of the brand in an international territory where it hasn't existed in any form so far. The U.K. channel will be somewhat different, though, from the U.S. version given that Viacom already operates general entertainment network Channel 5. 

Confirmed to make their U.K. TV premieres on the channel are Kiefer Sutherland drama Designated Survivor and U.S. comedy series The Mick, starring Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), both of which will air later in the year. The network will also be the home of various free-to-air premieres, including the seventh season of Suits, earlier seasons of which will also air on the channel.

Other show offers will include Lip Sync Battle U.S., action drama Six, fantasy drama Heroes Reborn and comedy Will & Grace.

The network will also show such movies as War of the Worlds, Catch Me If You Can and Dances With Wolves, The Shining, The Talented Mr Ripley, Jackie Brown and Groundhog Day.

“Paramount Network is set to deliver high-end Hollywood entertainment with blockbuster movies, scripted drama and critically acclaimed comedy featuring some of the biggest names on the planet," said Frow. "Supported by Channel 5’s creative scheduling and audience insight and underpinned by Viacom’s brand-building expertise, Paramount Network is a popular premium content destination in a free-to-air world."

Added Offman: “Launching on TV screens in the U.K. is another critical milestone for the Paramount Network brand, which we’re convinced will resonate strongly with British viewers given Paramount’s distinguished and successful history of epic, cinematic storytelling for global audiences. Delivering free-to-air content to millions of U.K. households underlines our belief that, despite the growing popularity of on-demand, viewers continue to value highly TV channels that offer an intelligently scheduled linear lineup of quality entertainment.”

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish has said the U.S. Paramount Network will need more time to build ratings momentum. Upcoming originals after the first original series Waco, which he said "performed very well," include American Woman, starring Alicia Silverstone, Mena Suvari and Jennifer Bartels, and Taylor Sheridan's Yellowstone with Kevin Costner.