On Thursday, Spike TV will become the first major basic cable network to rebrand itself in the Peak TV era of nearly 500 scripted originals.
Topped by president Kevin Kay, who was charged with leading the rebranding while also overseeing fellow Viacom cable networks TV Land and CMT, Paramount Network executives, showrunners and stars previewed what to expect from the cabler on Monday during its first appearance before press at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.
Kay opened the day by noting that Paramount Network’s official launch was a mere 72 hours away, telling the gathered press that he hoped the general entertainment network — launching with a roster of four scripted series and unscripted hits from Spike, would become a destination for “big, bold, high-quality, compelling and relatable” fare.
“We want to be the definitive new home for premium storytelling,” said Kay, who reports directly to Viacom CEO Bob Bakish. “Our goal is to change the game of how viewers experience high-end scripted on basic cable. … We’re a premium network without the premium subscription price.”
Paramount Network: A Guide to All the Programming (and Who’s Calling the Shots)
Paramount Network will officially launch Thursday at 9 p.m. with a live, Michael Jackson-themed installment of Lip Sync Battle, Spike’s signature show. Its unscripted offerings also include Spike holdovers Ink Master and Bar Rescue. On the scripted side, its first offering will be Waco, the six-part miniseries about David Koresh and the Branch Davidians starring Michael Shannon and Taylor Kitsch. That will be followed by Heathers, an hourlong dark comedic reboot of the cult hit 1988 movie starring Christian Slater and Winona Ryder, that TV Land and Paramount Network president of development Keith Cox developed for the former; another TV Land-turned-Paramount Network series, half-hour scripted 1970s-set feminist comedy American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari; and Kevin Costner starrer Yellowstone, picked up straight to series as the cabler’s first show developed specifically for it.
Kay reiterated that Paramount Network’s goal is to reach the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic. “We don’t want the Spike audience to go away; we want the audience 50-50 male-female. We’re not that far off as we’ve ended Spike. We went with Waco first because it’s a big, broad show but feels like it still resonates with Spike viewers and then broadens our audience,” he said. “Heathers is a young female show. When we tested it, 35- to 49-year-old men loved it. We want to find and evolve our audience. Each of these [shows] has something special to offer. Hopefully they’ll sample us and stick with the other things.”
Kay also stressed that Harvey Weinstein and The Weinstein Co. have both been scrubbed from Waco and Yellowstone. “Harvey has never been part of the creative process for the show and until the company has a new name and a new path, The Weinstein Co. will not be part of either show,” he said. “What Harvey did is disgusting and disheartening. … Nobody wants to be associated with the things that went on there.”
As for Cox’s target for scripted fare, the executive used his time before press to reiterate that they’re redeveloping TV Land’s First Wives Club reboot for Paramount Network with a new writer (Tracy Oliver of Girls Trip fame); teaming with Kyle Killen for Velvet; and working with David Shore (The Good Doctor, House) on a remake of British anthology Accused.
“Bring us your best — and don’t go to Netflix, Amazon or Hulu because Paramount Network is going to be famous for big, bold originals,” Cox said of the content he hopes the town brings to the network. “We want to make linear TV urgent again,” he added later when asked about Paramount Network’s streaming plan.
Here’s what to expect from Paramount Network’s first four scripted series.