The cable channel formerly known as TNN is ditching its country and general-entertainment past for a more macho-sounding name, Spike TV. The new identity, along with fresh branding, will debut June 16, just 10 days before its long-awaited adult animation block launches.
President Albie Hecht said renaming the channel was critical to its repositioning as a young-male niche net. "Regardless of how we had changed and been successful, the name still maintained the heritage of The Nashville Network," he said. Spike TV, he contends, is more contemporary, aggressive and irreverent, "all the qualities we want for the first network for men."
The Thursday animation block, announced last spring, will feature Gary the Rat,
starring Kelsey Grammer as a lawyer turned rat; Stripperella, with Pamela Anderson as a stripper/superhero; and the Ren & Stimpy series, including new episodes.
Where women viewers can choose from Lifetime, WE or Oxygen, among others, Hecht says men are missing a dedicated service. Sure, ESPN, the History Channel and Comedy Central are popular choices, but "there is no one place where guys can come for a home base."
Spike TV is gunning for an elusive but coveted audience. Among adult viewers, men 18 to 34 years old watch the least amount of television, according to Horizon Media's head of research Brad Adgate.
"You're dealing with a very small pool," he noted, "but it's a group advertisers love to target, and they will pay a premium for it."
Spike TV can look to MTV Networks cousin MTV for cues. MTV delivers a high concentration of its prized teen viewers but rarely ranks among cable's highest-rated channels. If Spike TV can accomplish the same thing with young men, it should pique media buyers' interest.
To get there, the network is getting an infusion of new programming. Spike is partnering with print and online publications for short-form programming, which will debut with the June relaunch.
The Men's Health Minutes
will highlight health and fitness topics from Men's Health
magazine. CBS Marketwatch
will provide financial and market news three times a day. Wrapping around Wednesday-night theatrical movies will be A Guy and His Stuff,
based on the Stuff
magazine column, featuring latest gadgets and toys for men. And Zero to 60
will target men's car obsession with the latest automotive news and gadgets.
New series slated to debut over the next year include 10 Things Every Guy Should Experience, for which Spike TV takes men to the ultimate sporting events like the Super Bowl, Kentucky Derby and Indianapolis 500. Ride With Funkmaster Flex
is a look into car culture and celebrity with DJ and car enthusiast Funkmaster Flex and guest stars including Eminem, Ja Rule and Nelly. Reality show The Scene
follows young entrepreneurs trying to open a club. On 8 Minute Workout Challenge, five men and five women test out short-term fitness regiments to lose weight and build muscle.
Hecht described Spike TV's programming budget as "very significant" but would not elaborate. Kagan World Media estimates that TNN spent nearly $200 million on programming last year. Hecht is still aiming for Spike TV to be 50% original programming by 2005, when a scripted drama could join the schedule.
The channel will still have two movie nights, trying to program male-targeted movies, and will offer holdover acquisitions like CSI,
World Wrestling Entertainment's Raw
and Star Trek.