Viacom's Spike to Launch in Russia

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The network is to be focused on Western TV series, including 'Sherlock', 'Fargo', 'Peaky Blinders' and 'Suits.'

Viacom's Viacom International Media Networks unit will launch a Russian version of Spike in mid-March as the company continues to roll out the network in international markets.

The network will mostly air Western TV series, including Sherlock, Fargo, Peaky Blinders and Suits, as well as movies and television shows, Elena Balmont, general director of VIMN Russia, was quoted as saying by local business daily Kommersant.

A VIMN representative confirmed the launch plans.

VIMN Russia has been controlled by Maxim Mayorets, a top manager at major local industrial conglomerate Renova, since the company had to restructure its TV business in Russia in late 2015 to comply with new rules that kicked in last year and that limit foreign companies to stakes of 20 percent at most in Russian media companies.

Under a law adopted a few years ago, Spike won't be able to run any commercials in Russia, just like all other pay TV networks in the country. Instead, it expects to generate revenue from subscription fees. According to Kommersant, Spike will be included in basic packages by major pay TV operators.

The launch of Spike comes as part of a larger trend in Russia of moving Western television series from free-to-air federal channels to pay TV networks.

In December, Gazprom Media, the media arm of the Russian natural gas giant Gazprom, launched Kinoseria, a new television channel focused on foreign drama series. Kinoseria aired such British series as Prey, Happy Valley and Banished and Danish TV series Borgen during its first months.

Meanwhile, federal free-to-air networks have been recently airing fewer Western TV series, preferring to focus on Russian content they order from local production studios.

Viacom began the international expansion of the Spike network in 2014, launching it in the U.K.


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