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Herzog role spikes

Comedy Central programmer adds to duties

Viacom is putting Doug Herzog in change of all things men.

As expected, Comedy Central chief has been named president of Spike TV, a move that gives Herzog control over both of Viacom’s male-oriented networks.

Herzog had long been rumored to replace Albie Hecht, who resigned from his post Sunday (Daily Variety, Jan. 31). Los Angeles-based Herzog will now have a dual report to MTV Networks Group president Herb Scannell for Spike and to MTV Networks chair-CEO Judy McGrath for Comedy Central.

Herzog will now assume the challenging role of having to program two of the premiere destinations for young men. Exec says drawing a distinction between the two is priority. Part of his strategy will include expanding Spike’s target demo to build upon the older men that the off-net runs of “CSI” are driving to the network.

“There is a real opportunity to go after a broader audience at Spike than what we go for at Comedy Central,” Herzog said. “I’m thinking of Spike as more of a lifestyle channel. Comedy Central is certainly a destination, but it’s not lifestyle. They won’t be the same thing.”

Scannell said Herzog was a natural choice to run the men’s cabler given his success at luring guys to Comedy Central.

“With these two channels aligned, we’ve got this one-two punch in the male demo that’s unrivaled in the cable business. It just makes so much sense,” Scannell said. “And, of course, Doug has an incredible track record making network-defining shows like ‘South Park’ and ‘Monk.’ ”

Both execs add that the Spike moniker is here to stay. McGrath said in a statement: “I couldn’t be more thrilled to have Doug’s influence and creative energy on Spike TV — and to create a new unit, under him, along with Comedy Central. Culturally and from a business perspective, there are tremendous opportunities and advantages to bring together these two networks that share a highly desirable demographic but speak to it independently. ”

Part of Herzog’s challenge will be turning around what has been a tough couple of years for the cabler, which hasn’t been able to get traction with its original offerings since it relaunched as Spike in summer 2003. Cabler got away from its original mission — to cover travel, finance, health and sports — and save for the short-lived success of “The Joe Schmo Show,” its numerous stabs at toons, talkers and reality have flopped.

But with the introduction of “CSI” a few months ago, Spike has amassed larger auds, finishing last year with a 14% increase in total viewers. Herzog will now concentrate on developing a few projects with breakthrough potential, both in the scripted and reality arenas.

“Spike is my favorite kind of challenge. It’s got some ratings now, some momentum and a brand, which they created from scratch, which is really clear to audiences and advertisers. The thing that’s been elusive is that enduring and sizeable show. So that’s my priority,” Herzog said, pointing to ESPN’s short-lived scripted drama “Playmakers” as something that would have been “a perfect show for Spike.”

Execs say a decision on the future of its WWE wrestling franchise is imminent.

Herzog has been back in the MTV Networks fold since last year, when he was named president of Comedy Central. Previously, he held top programming posts at USA Network, Fox and MTV.

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