Let it be noted that, on this day, January 18, 2018, Spike TV, the cable station touted as “The First Channel For Men,” has gone the way of the dodo. Spike TV, which hardly anybody has watched in years, is now “The Paramount Network.”
This is all part of their parent company, Viacom, and a new effort to re-brand their cable channels, with a focus on six core channels, one of which The Paramount Network is now considered to be. The other five “main” Viacom channels are BET, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and MTV. Charleston area Suddenlink customers may recognize these as the channels that they couldn’t watch for over two years as the cable company was too cheap to continue to pay to carry them.
This wave of Viacom rebrandings cast a bit of a pall over the “non-main” channels that the company owns, like VH1, Logo, TV Land, five additional MTV channels, three additional Nickelodeon channels, six additional BET channels and CMT.
It is believed that sometime in the next year, Viacom will simply shut down some of their underperforming channels, which is becoming a fairly common practice these days.
Comcast/NBC/Universal suddenly shut down the Chiller channel on the last day of last year, and earlier last year they pulled the plug on Universal HD, The Esquire Channel and Cloo.
It’s becoming increasingly expensive to maintain multiple cable channels since most barely register on the ratings barometer. The idea of offering a huge suite of channels has hit the point of diminishing returns, and Viacom has turned many of its lesser channels into dumping grounds for cheap reruns that they own outright so that they can keep costs to a minimum.
And that’s why they’ve changed Spike TV to The Paramount Network. The channel has a huge footprint, being available in over 93 million households, but they had no notable breakout programming. Even with the new direction, they’re sort of limping out of the gate, with almost the same schedule as Spike TV until later in the spring when they debut a couple of mini-series that were originally developed for TV Land.
Those shows, an anthology based on the movie “Heathers” and “American Woman,” a sitcom starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, who used to be famous. Later in the year they’ll offer “Yellowstone,” a western starring Kevin Costner, but that doesn’t start until June.
Aside from a documentary about Dr. Martin Luther King, their sole new offering this month will be a mini-series about the Waco seige that starts January 24. “Waco” has the added distinction of being produced by a company that will not be mentioned, as the network will erase the involvement of The Weinstein Company from the credits. The Weinstein Company will also be scrubbed from the credits of “Yellowstone.”
That’s not a terribly impressive start for a new network. They announced this change a year ago, and you’d think they’d have put a little more effort into making a clean break from their old identity and pull off a big relaunch. They still have “Lip Sync Battle,” a show that I have managed to avoid being exposed to completely, and they carry Belator, a third-rate UFC-style combat sport. There are more reality shows left over from Spike TV, but I never watch that sort of thing.
However, it only takes one hit show to put a newly-rebranded network on the map. Many cable channels have found themselves reborn after abandoning their original mission. AMC used to be a classic movie channel, but after they added commercials and started airing original shows, they became a powerhouse with “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “The Walking Dead” building a solid audience.
Spike TV itself was a re-branding of The Nashville Network. The dumped their rural focus and went mainstream, cementing that with the temporary acquisition of “WWE RAW” from the USA Network. When WWE took their programming back to USA, Spike TV never quite rebounded, and began a prolonged period of floundering in the ratings.
Aside from WWE stuff, the only really notable thing on the channel was the short-lived reunion of animator John Kricfalusi with his creations, Ren and Stimpy in the controversial “Ren and Stimpy’s Adult Party Cartoon.”
The missed opportunity with this rebranding is that the 100-year-old Paramount brand is closely associated with the Star Trek franchise, but the rights to the Star Trek television series are tied up by other cable channels, so Paramount will have to make do without the most recognizable “name” franchise.
So goodbye, Spike TV. Hello, The Paramount Network. Let’s see what you’ve got.