Spike (TV network)
|Launched||March 7, 1983|
|Owned by||Viacom (Viacom Media Networks)|
|Headquarters||Los Angeles, California, United States|
|Dish Network||241 HD/SD|
|Bell TV (Canada)||628 SD|
|Shaw Direct (Canada)||584 / 268|
|Rogers Cable (Canada)||279|
|Seaside Communications (Canada)||15|
|Optik TV (Canada)||
|VMedia (Canada)||279 SD|
Spike (formerly and popularly known as Spike TV) is an American cable and satellite channel launched on March 7, 1983, owned by Viacom through Viacom Media Networks and based in Los Angeles, California. Spike is a general entertainment channel featuring a mix of various programs and movies, primarily oriented towards a male adult audience.
Spike's programming reaches approximately 98.7 million pay television subscribers in the United States as well as Canada. As of 2006, Spike's viewers were almost half women (45%), although many of them are reported to be watching it with male partners or family members, or were watching the CSI franchise. The average age of the channel's viewers was 42 years old.
The Nashville Network era (1983–2000)
Spike was launched on March 7, 1983 as The Nashville Network, a country living and country music-themed television channel that originally operated as a joint venture of WSM, Inc. (a subsidiary of National Life and Accident Insurance Company) and Group W Satellite Communications. TNN operated from the now-defunct Opryland USA theme park near Nashville, Tennessee. Country Music Television (CMT), founded by Glenn D. Daniels, beat TNN's launch by two days, robbing them of the claim of the "first country music cable television network." TNN's flagship shows included Nashville Now, The Statler Brothers Show, American Sports Cavalcade and Grand Ole Opry Live. Nashville Now and the Grand Ole Opry were broadcast live from Opryland USA.
The Gaylord Entertainment Company purchased TNN and the Opryland properties in the latter half of 1987. Much of TNN's programming (except for its sports) during the Gaylord era was originally produced by Opryland Productions, also owned by Gaylord Entertainment. From 1983 to 1992, all of TNN's auto racing and motor sports coverage was produced by Diamond P Sports. Starting in 1993, TNN started having its NASCAR coverage produced by World Sports Enterprises, and the American Speed Association coverage produced by Group 5 Sports, while Diamond P continued to produce most of the rest of the racing coverage. Programming included variety shows, talk shows, game shows, outdoor shows (such as hunting and fishing), and lifestyle shows; all centered in some way around country music or the country style of living.
Some of TNN's popular on-air talent included local Nashville media personalities Ralph Emery, Dan Miller, Charlie Chase and Lorianne Crook, as well as established stars such as country music singer Bill Anderson and actresses Florence Henderson and Dinah Shore. By 1995, TNN was acquired by Westinghouse Electric Corporation, which had recently acquired CBS around that time; two years later, Westinghouse bought CMT, TNN's chief competitor. In 1998, the channel dropped its "The Nashville Network" moniker and shortened its official name to TNN. Ownership shifted to Viacom in the late 1990s after its acquisition of CBS Corporation, Westinghouse's successor. TNN subsequently relocated its headquarters to New York City from Nashville and was folded into Viacom's MTV Networks division.
The National Network, the New TNN and the WWE era (2000–03)
On September 25, 2000, Viacom, sensing redundancy among TNN and CMT when it merged them into its MTV Networks unit, decided to refocus TNN, and in the process, the channel dramatically scaled back its country-western programs and changed its name to The National Network. The network's name change also triggered a significant programming change in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience than the channel's original rural/working-class Southern demographic. This change was catalyzed by Viacom's acquisition of the rights to World Wrestling Federation (WWF, now World Wrestling Entertainment or WWE) programming, including its flagship show RAW Is War. This was likely an attempt to compete with Universal's USA Network which Viacom (through Paramount) had briefly owned a stake in during the mid-1990s. During this time, the channel began placing a black bar at the bottom of the screen that was used to identify the program currently airing and to promote upcoming programs on the channel; this bar was eventually dropped by the fall of 2002.
Football also became more prominent on the network, as it began airing games of the original Arena Football League (AFL) with Eli Gold as an announcer. The National Network was also one of three networks to air games of the ill-fated XFL (along with NBC and UPN). As part of its contract, TNN had the rights to a late Sunday afternoon game each week except for the first week, when UPN aired the afternoon game instead. TNN aired the first opening-round game of the 2001 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship when organizers expanded the field to 65 teams; it was produced by CBS Sports with CBS announcers. The game coverage moved to ESPN in 2002.
In 2001, TNN added off-network sitcoms and dramas such as Diff'rent Strokes, The Wonder Years, The Rockford Files, WKRP in Cincinnati, Newhart, Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, Miami Vice and Taxi. It also became the first channel to air reruns of MADtv. These moves went unnoticed for the most part, due to TNN's lack of popularity. By this time, all country-western programming had been purged from the network; some of The Nashville Network's former programming was picked up by CMT, while other classic TNN shows were picked up by GAC, including eventually the Grand Ole Opry, which was pushed off to CMT and eventually removed by Viacom after they did not renew the agreement to carry the series in an attempt to infuse a more youthful schedule on CMT.
As time went on, the words "The National Network" were downplayed in promotions. By late 2002, the channel was known as The New TNN and had picked up more male-oriented shows, such as Baywatch, Monster Jam, Bull Riding, Robot Wars and Star Trek: The Next Generation. This was done in an effort both to further distance itself from its former country music-based identity and to trumpet an increase in original programming. Television critics at the time noted disdainfully that "The New TNN", when written out, stood for "The New The National Network", a pleonasm. Also, after more than two years in a non-country format, the network's offerings had long ceased to be "new" in any meaningful sense.
Spike TV (2003–present)
In early 2003, The New TNN was rebranded as Spike TV, marketed as the first television channel for men. In early 2006, Spike removed the word "TV" from its name, referring to itself as Spike.
Spike Lee lawsuit
The name change to "Spike TV" was supposed to be official on June 16, 2003. However, three days earlier on June 13, film director Spike Lee won a New York Supreme Court injunction preventing the name change. Lee claimed that because of his well-known popularity in Hollywood, viewers would therefore assume that he was associated with the new channel. Lee stated in court papers that: "The media description of this change of name, as well as comments made to me and my wife, confirmed what was obvious—that Spike TV referred to Spike Lee."
The channel had planned an official launch of its new name at a star-studded, televised party at the Playboy Mansion in mid-June. But due to Lee's injunction, the special—titled Party with Spike—had to be heavily edited and the impact of the event was considerably muted. During the lawsuit, even the name "TNN" was significantly scaled back, as logos and voice-overs referred to the channel only as "The First Network for Men".
Spike Jones Jr., son of comic musician Spike Jones, became a party of the lawsuit as part of Viacom's defense to protect the rights to his father's name. The suit was settled on July 8, 2003, and TNN was allowed to call itself Spike TV. In announcing the settlement, Lee admitted that he did not believe that the channel intentionally tried to trade on his name. The name change became official on August 11, 2003.
Spike programming, 2003–06
The name change was slated to coincide with an adult-oriented change in programming including original animated series Stripperella, This Just In!, and Gary the Rat, popular reruns such as Baywatch, V.I.P. and The A-Team, original specials such as The 100 Most Irresistible Women, and imported programming such as MXC. Spike TV hired cartoonist John Kricfalusi, and a new version of the classic animated hit The Ren & Stimpy Show returned with new episodes in a series known as Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon". After Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" was canceled, the channel started airing classic episodes that originally aired on Nickelodeon in the 1990s; it was named Ren & Stimpy: The Classics. These episodes were rated TV-PG instead of TV-MA, though it aired late at night. The original Nickelodeon episodes aired on Spike also aired uncut. The Klasky Csupo production Immigrants was originally slated to run on Spike TV's animation block, but this never materialized and the series was turned into a film instead. Also unaired was the John Leguizamo animated production Zilch & Zero.
It has scored some major coups in terms of its programming, receiving syndication rights to several Star Trek series (which were produced by another Viacom branch, Paramount Television), as well as most of the James Bond series of movies. It also became the cable home to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and the cult TV favorite MXC, an overdubbed version of the Japanese series Takeshi's Castle.
In the fall of 2003, Spike TV aired The Joe Schmo Show, a parody of reality television shows like Survivor and Big Brother. Its finale led to the channel's highest ratings at the time, and a second season aired in the Summer of 2004. 2003 also saw the debut of the Video Game Awards, which would go on to become notorious for favoring the channel's own demographic at the expense of the larger gaming community. In November 2004, Spike TV purchased the cable/satellite syndication rights to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation for a record price of $1.9 million per episode. It joined the lineup on October 1, 2006. The promotion of the CSI franchises earned Spike the colloquial title "The CSI Channel" during this period because as much as one third (eight hours) of programming blocks were devoted to the franchise.
On November 18, 2004, Spike TV (and sister channel VH1) aired a night-long marathon of reruns of the Nickelodeon animated series SpongeBob SquarePants starting at midnight, to promote the following day's release of The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in theaters. In September 2005, all WWE (formerly the WWF) programming on Spike TV left the channel as a result of acrimonious contractual matters between the WWE and Viacom. WWE Raw moved back to its original cable home, NBC Universal's USA Network, while WWE Heat and WWE Velocity moved to WWE.com after the organization failed to secure a new television home for the shows in the United States.
On October 1, 2005, wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling began airing its weekly program TNA iMPACT! (now known as Impact Wrestling) in the Saturday night time slot formerly occupied by WWE Velocity. It moved to Thursdays in April 2006, and expanded to two hours in October 2007. In 2010, TNA made a new deal with Spike TV which would move Impact to Monday nights starting on March 8, 2010, though Impact! was shifted back to Thursdays after the program suffered from decreased viewership in its Monday timeslot.
On January 18, 2005, Spike TV debuted The Ultimate Fighter (TUF), an original reality show based around the sport of mixed martial arts which proved to be a surprise hit. Spike later extended its UFC coverage with UFC Unleashed, UFC Primetime and UFC All Access. On August 18, 2011, Spike officials made a statement regarding the end of its partnership with the UFC, "The Ultimate Fighter season 14 in September will be our last....Our 6-year partnership with the UFC has been incredibly beneficial in building both our brands, and we wish them all the best in the future."
In October 2005, Spike TV debuted Game Head with Geoff Keighley, a weekly video game show, and later followed up with Fresh Baked Videogames, making them both part of their "Slammin' Saturday Night" lineup.
Fresh Baked Video Games
On January 14, 2006, Spike introduced the short-lived video game review show Fresh Baked Videogames. Among the show's many comedy sketches, pranks and animations was its most popular segment "A Free Video Game for a Shot to The Nuts". In this segment, male contestants volunteered to take a strike to their testicles for a free video game. The contestants were given options as to how they would be struck, ranging from being hit by a sack of nickels, to a kicking from a female soccer player. The most popular episode of the show was its fourth episode on January 28, 2006, which the "Shot to The Nuts" segment featured Swedish actress Annika Svedman dressed as an NCAA cheerleader; she was selected twice by contestants to be kicked in their testicles by her. This specific segment of Annika Svedman emerged in early 2007 on YouTube and has since become an Internet phenomenon which has helped propel Svedman's notoriety. The best-known version of the clip (usually distributed as a Flash clip) shows a cheerleading outfit-clad Svedman (complete with pom poms) moving her legs back and forth before delivering a debilitating kick. The original clip was made and distributed on YouTube from a thread of the original segment. The clip has been continuously removed from the website due to Digital Millennium Copyright Act claims of copyright infringement, however, the clip continues to reemerge due to its cult-like popularity.
Spike had devoted large chunks of its programming time to the Star Trek franchise, to varying degrees. It featured Star Trek: The Next Generation heavily before introducing Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in 2004 and Star Trek: Voyager in 2006. All of these introductions were accompanied by multi-day marathons at some point; the Next Generation marathon included appearances by celebrities such as Wil Wheaton, who played Wesley Crusher in the series. Deep Space Nine and Voyager had been relegated to late night hours before they disappeared from the channel's schedule, and The Next Generation had disappeared months before the syndication rights were bought by Syfy. The promotion of the Trek franchises earned Spike the colloquial title The Star Trek Channel during this period because as much as one third (eight hours) of programming blocks were devoted to the franchise.
A notable omission during the period was Star Trek: Enterprise, which the channel passed on (Syfy had proceeded to ease it into four-hour Monday night blocks). TV Land meanwhile had the rights to Star Trek: The Original Series, but Spike stated that there may not be enough episodes (only three seasons) to accommodate the kind of blocks it would like to air. Spike later replaced that block with re-runs of Disorderly Conduct: Video on Patrol and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.
"Get More Action"
After the Viacom/CBS Corporation split of November 2005, Spike became a part of the "new" Viacom with its sibling channels in the MTV Networks family. In May 2006, the channel was rebranded to accentuate its masculinity, including a new logo, dropping the second half of its channel name ("TV") from the logo and adding the "Get More Action" tagline.
In June 2006, Spike debuted Blade: The Series, a series starring rapper Sticky Fingaz that was based on the Blade films. David S. Goyer, writer of all three Blade films (and director of the third Blade film), wrote the pilot and served as executive producer on the series. It was canceled four months later on September 28, 2006.
On September 5, 2006, Spike premiered the documentary film Metal of Honor: The Ironworkers of 9/11 by filmmaker Rachel Maguire, which profiled the ironworkers' efforts in the attempts for rescue and recovery following the September 11 attacks at the World Trade Center site. The film proceeds through the ironworkers' dismantling of the fallen towers.
On October 10, 2006, Spike debuted the Scream Awards, the first awards show honoring horror, science fiction, fantasy and comic books. At the 2007 San Diego Comic-Con International, the Spike TV booth was awarding tickets to that year's awards ceremony to the winners of their "Scariest Costume" contest. In late 2006, Spike introduced the "Late Night Strip", a block that aired Thursdays and Fridays at 12:00 a.m. consisting of original series that are sometimes inappropriate for daytime television, with regular intermissions featuring women. Programming featured on the block included MXC, Wild World of Spike, The Dudesons and Game Head.
In October 2007, Kevin Kay was appointed network president after serving as executive vice president and general manager of the channel for the previous two years. The post had been vacant since December 2006. Throughout the summer of 2007, starting on Father's Day (June 17), the channel launched its first public service campaign, the "True Dads" national outreach campaign, with former New York Yankees player Don Mattingly as spokesperson. This focused on fathers who demonstrated active roles in their children's lives, through public service announcements on the channel featuring both celebrity and ordinary fathers and websites such as Spike's own "True Dads" site, among other things.
In April 2008, Spike aired the commercial television premiere of Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, and became the first basic cable channel in the U.S. to air all six Star Wars movies. Viacom bid against NBCUniversal and the Turner Broadcasting System for the rights to the entire Star Wars film series, which was worth up to $80 million, despite channels owned by each of the companies having previously aired at least part of the original trilogy. The same year, the channel began to broadcast a reality show based on the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). On the weekend of April 5 and 6, 2008, the channel aired the first three Star Wars films against the simultaneous TNT broadcast of all three Lord of the Rings films. More viewers watched the Star Wars broadcasts on Spike than watched the Lord of the Rings broadcasts on TNT. On April 7, 2008, the channel acquired cable syndication rights for the sitcom Married... with Children (the series would be shuffled between various Viacom-owned networks in subsequent years, from Comedy Central to TV Land to Nick at Nite). Five new unscripted series were picked up for the channel's summer 2008 lineup.
In the fall of 2009, Spike broadcast live Australian rugby league semifinal games from the National Rugby League and also showed the grand final, as David Niu tried to bring professional rugby league (National Rugby League USA) to the United States.
On June 1, 2010, Spike launched into the first crowd-sourced pilot episode contest with Scripped, a web-based screenwriting community. In this contest, Spike tested its ability to discover new talent from untested channels.
On March 30, 2011, with the series premiere of Coal (a new series from 1000 Ways to Die creator Thom Beers), Spike rebranded itself with a slightly recolored logo and a new slogan, "Get Real", emphasizing a major shift in its original programming from a mix of low-brow scripted and unscripted series aimed at young males towards reality series aimed at the broader 18–49 demographic. On August 24, 2011, Spike launched a new series called Alternate History, illustrating what the world could be like if past events were slightly different. The premiere episode documented what would have happened if the Germans stopped the Allied invasion of France and took over the world. No other episodes have been featured.
In 2013, Bellator MMA made its network debut with the premiere of its eighth season. The now Viacom-owned mixed martial arts promotion's events previously aired on sibling channel MTV2. Later that year, Spike was named the official broadcaster for the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Last year, Spike shared coverage with G4. In response to their growing audience, Spike underwent a brand refresh, giving the channel a "more cinematic" look. Spike Art Director Michael Sutton-Long, who led the rebrand, says the refresh "lets people know that Spike is a classy, entertainment-driven network. It’s not a full-on rebrand, but it moves the network in the direction of becoming bigger and broader and more cinematic.”
At the end of the summer, Spike debuted the 26th season of Cops, having picked up the series from Fox. In the fall, kickboxing promotion Glory made its network debut with Glory 11: Chicago. This was not Spike's first time broadcasting a kickboxing event as, in 2012, they partnered with K-1 to broadcast several events on their website. The end of the year saw the Video Game Awards revamped and become known as VGX. The first event under the new format was held on December 7, 2013 on Spike's website.
In 2014, TMZ reported that Spike would not renew TNA's contract. Months after a move to Wednesday nights, it was later announced that Impact Wrestling would end its run on December 24, 2014 and move to Destination America in 2015. Later that year, it was announced that Spike would drop their video game award show. Geoff Keighley would go on to create his own award show in the form of The Game Awards. In January 2015, following a similar deal made by NBC, Spike announced they would air monthly fight cards by the Haymon Boxing-created "Premier Boxing Champions".
"The Ones to Watch"
During its upfronts on March 3, 2015, Spike unveiled a new logo and tagline, "The Ones to Watch". The re-branding aimed to make the network more inclusive to women, emphasizing a focus on "big talent, engaging shows and hits that get people talking" and further expansions into scripted series. Alongside the miniseries Tut and the announcement of an expanded episode order for the series Lip Sync Battle (a spin-off of a segment from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon), the network announced an output deal with Dwayne Johnson's $7 Bucks Productions for a series of specials, Emergency Broadcast, an original drama co-created by Max Brooks, and Sweat Inc., a fitness-oriented reality series hosted by Jillian Michaels.
With 2.2 million viewers, the series premiere of Lip Sync Battle on April 2, 2015 was the highest-rated non-scripted premiere in network history. Likewise, Tut averaged 2.2 million viewers in its three nights, for a combined 11.4 million viewers.
Much of Spike's lineup consists of entertainment programming oriented towards the demographic of males aged 18 to 49, including original series and occasional broadcasts of feature films. Such male-oriented programs constituted the majority of its schedule upon its original re-launch as Spike but, since 2011, the network had shifted towards reality series, such as Bar Rescue and Ink Master. With its 2015 rebrand, the network will aim to air more "gender-balanced" programming, along with more scripted series.
Spike also airs combat sporting events, including Bellator mixed martial arts, kickboxing, and Premier Boxing Champions; as of 2016, these events are broadcast under the Spike Sports banner. In the past, the network also carried professional wrestling programs from TNA and WWE.
On October 15, 2005, Viacom acquired iFilm, which was initially launched in 1997. After acquiring the website for $49 million, it was eventually rebranded to Spike.com and provided hosting of user-uploaded videos.
YouTube was also launched in 2005, which later suffered a class action lawsuit from Viacom reported to be over $1 billion. Spike.com's managing division claims that they only host videos they approve after they are submitted.
In July 2016, Spike TV became available to Fetch TV.
In April 1984, while as TNN, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) approved the channel for carriage by Canadian cable and satellite television providers. Following its re-branding as Spike TV, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters filed a complaint with the CRTC on behalf of Canwest Global, demanding the channel be removed from Canadian television providers. The CAB felt that its new general entertainment format would directly compete with various Canadian-run specialty channels, arguing that there was overlap in its niche and its then-current schedule with Men TV, Space (Star Trek), sports channels (The Score broadcasts WWE programming), Discovery Health (interstitial segments focusing on men's health, although the network did not air any full-length programs on health) as well as Report on Business Television and CTV Travel.
In January 2005, the CRTC ruled that Spike could remain available in Canada. The commission felt that the CAB provided insufficient evidence that Spike was directly competing with these channels, as the genres in which there were overlap with Canadian services represented a minority of the network's overall schedule that would not impede domestic networks. The CRTC stated that Men TV's programming was focused upon "the luxury market, the gourmet market, men's beauty and fitness, the book and music market, outdoor adventures and leisure sports, from a Canadian men's perspective", in contrast to Spike, which was described as being a general entertainment network aimed towards a male audience.
Due to programming rights issues, certain programs (particularly films which the channel does not have the rights to air outside of the U.S.) are removed from the Spike feed distributed in Canada, and replaced by older reruns of its original programming.
The Netherlands & Flanders
On August 18, 2015, Viacom announced that a Dutch version of Spike would launch in the Netherlands and Flanders. As of October 1, 2015 the channel initially began broadcasting on a 9pm - 2.30am time slot on the Nickelodeon channel.
On December 12, 2016 Spike will launch in the Netherlands a 24-hours channel on Ziggo. At the same time Nickelodeon will be a 24-hours channel again. On other platforms Spike and Nickelodeon keep on time-sharing. It is not known whether this will happen in Flanders.
On April 15, 2015, a British version of Spike was launched; owned by Viacom International Media Networks Europe, it is operated under the auspices of Channel 5, which Viacom had acquired the previous year. Its launch lineup primarily features Spike's original programs and reruns from its parent network, acquired U.S. drama imports (such as Breaking Bad, Justified, and The Walking Dead), along with Bellator MMA and the domestic MMA promotion BAMMA.
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