Spike TV says so long to scripted

Cabler to focus on all-reality progamming strategy

Blue Mountain State” might be the last scripted show on Spike TV for years to come.

The bawdy college football drama is about to begin its third season on Sept. 21, and while the numbers have been decent — it averaged 1.3 million viewers last season — neither the series, nor any other scripted shows, are in the network’s long-term plans.

“For the near future, we are concentrating on unscripted,” Sharon Levy, exec VP of original series, told Variety. “That’s based on a strategy that is working.”

While Levy said she’s always open to a scripted pitch, those around town hoping to sell a scripted series are being told Spike is focusing on reality shows.

The move shouldn’t surprise anyone: Spike has never relied on scripted programming in any serious way.

Besides “Blue,” the only other scripted skeins from Spike are 2008 comedy “Factory,” about four guys who worked together and which ran for only one season; “Blade,” which was based on the Marvel Comics property and also ran only one season; and 2007’s Marine drama “The Kill Point.”

Auction Hunters” is Spike’s highest-rated series, averaging 1.7 million viewers overall. Skein, which is similar to A&E’s “Storage Wars,” focuses on the contents of storage units and the value of the items that people can bid on. Other series on the air include “1000 Ways to Die,” “Bar Rescue” and “Deadliest Warrior.”

Spike also announced the pickup recently of four reality series: “American Digger,” “Big Easy Justice,” “World’s Worst Tenants” and “Undercover Stings” are all set to premiere next year.

Spike lost one of its biggest reality players when the UFC, which had aired on the channel for the past seven years, recently signed a multi-year deal with Fox, FX and Fuel. The UFC was a big catalyst in drawing 18-34 men and with the sport no longer on Spike’s roster, there is a bigger push to reach the larger 18-49 demo.

“We have to broaden out,” Levy said. “Shows that are working for us and have been picked up point to that strategy.”

Levy said she believes the loss of the UFC creates airtime for new series. But UFC did have a loyal fan base, and that will be difficult to replace.

As many nets are fully aware, a successful reality slate can be hugely profitable. Spike is hoping to borrow a page from A&E and History, for example, who have done exceedingly well with reality. A&E, however, offers a few scripted series as part of its programming mix and History has said it is looking to go down that road as well.