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Paramount Network Chiefs ‘Want to Make Linear TV Urgent Again’

Spike TV will undergo a relaunch Thursday, rebranding itself as Paramount Network. Corporate parent Viacom is positioning the channel as a general-entertainment destination specializing in scripted drama and comedy.

At a time when traditional media companies are increasingly focused on digital distribution, Paramount Network’s top executives emphasized their brand’s role as a cable channel in the traditional MVPD universe Monday at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

“We want to make linear TV urgent again,” Paramount Network president Kevin Kay said Monday in an executive session with the channel’s development and programming president, Keith Cox. “We want people to watch it. We want people to have conversations about it.” Kay added that the weekly linear scheduling of programming will help Paramount drive conversation around its shows in a way that Netflix with its binge-release strategy cannot.

“We want people to watch live, live same day, DVR,” Cox said.

Paramount Network on Monday presented panels with the casts and creators of several of the new series it is looking to reinvent its brand with, including the miniseries “Waco,” drama “Yellowstone,” and comedies “American Woman” and “Heathers.”

Spike TV had been positioned as a male-skewing channel. Kay said that the new programming strategy for Paramount Network is designed to steer the channel toward more gender balance.

“We’re trying to reach men and women 18-49,” Kay said. “Spike was in its infancy very male, sometimes 70-80% male.” He added that the network is striving for a male-female balance close to 50-50. “We don’t want the Spike audience to go away, but we want to broaden the audience.”

Kay also said that disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein, who executive produced “Yellowstone” and “Waco,” will not be credited on either series — nor will The Weinstein Company’s, which produced them.

“What Harvey did is disgusting,” Kay said. “It’s disheartening.”

Kay did say that the Weinstein Company’s credit will be restored when and if the company reemerges with a new name. “The Weinstein Company will not be credited until they reconstitute their company,” he said, expressing optimism that TWC will recover from the turmoil in which it is currently ensnared.

Kay also announced that “Heathers” will premiere March 7.

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