Spike (TV network)
|Launched||March 7, 1983
September 25, 2000
(as The New TNN)
August 11, 2003 (as Spike)
|Owned by||Spike Cable Networks, Inc.
(Viacom Media Networks) (Viacom)
|Picture format||480i (SDTV)
|Slogan||Come on, Get Real!|
|Broadcast area||United States and Canada|
|Headquarters||New York City, New York, U.S.|
|Formerly called||The Nashville Network/TNN (1983–2000)
The National Network (2000–2003)
The New TNN (2000–2003)
Spike TV (2003–2006)
|Sister channel(s)||MTV, MTV2, VH1, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, CMT, Comedy Central, TV Land|
|Dish Network||241 (HD/SD)|
|Bell TV (Canada)||628 (SD) / 1628 (HD)|
|Shaw Direct (Canada)||584 / 268|
|4040 V / 29270 / 3/4
|4060 H / 29270 / 3/4
|Verizon FiOS||554 (HD)
|Rogers Cable (Canada)||279|
|Seaside Communications (Canada)||15|
|Available on most cable providers||Check local listings for channels|
|AT&T U-verse||1145 (HD)
|Optik TV (Canada)||390 (HD)
Spike (formerly and popularly known as Spike TV) is an American basic cable and satellite television channel that is owned by the Spike Cable Networks, Inc. subsidiary of MTV Networks Entertainment Group, a unit of the Viacom Media Networks division of Viacom. The channel features a mix of acquired comedy and drama series, along with various original programs and movies, all targeting males between the ages of 18 and 34.
Spike's programming reaches approximately 98.7 million pay television subscribers in the United States. As of 2006, Spike's viewership was 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.
- 1 Precursors
- 2 Spike TV (2003–present)
- 3 Programming
- 4 Website
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The Nashville Network era (1983–2000)
Spike was originally launched on March 7, 1983 as The Nashville Network (TNN), 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 the simpler TNN, and 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 (2000–2003)
On September 25, 2000, Viacom sensed redundancy among TNN and CMT, when it merged them into its MTV Networks unit. The company 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. 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 simply 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, technically 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)
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.
The name change was slated to coincide with an adult-oriented change in programming including original animated series Stripperella 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.
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. 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 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 DMCA 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 initially 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 sufficient episodes (only three seasons) to accommodate the kind of blocks it would like to air. Syfy and BBC America now have the rights to Star Trek: The Next Generation. 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 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.
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.
The channel features a combination of reruns of network programming, various original programming, and theatrically- and DVD-released feature films. Spike is also home to three annual awards shows exclusive to the channel: the VGX, the Spike Guys' Choice Awards and the Scream Awards; as well as the home of Impact Wrestling, the flagship program of professional wrestling organization Total Nonstop Action Wrestling, and mixed martial arts events from Bellator MMA.
Though its programming is still aimed at the male demographic (ages 18–49), Spike no longer makes the claim to be "the first network for men". Presumable motivations for this include acknowledging earlier attempts at "male-only" television (such as mentv in Canada), and the risk of losing access to its Canadian audiences due to a claim of "duplication" (in terms of programming and target audience) contrary to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission regulations. Due to licensing restrictions and programming rights issues, Canadian viewers of Spike see alternate programming whenever Spike airs certain films or other certain series programs.
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.
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- Annika Svedman
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