Paramount Network Bosses Talk Programming Strategy, Stay Mum On Possible Viacom-CBS Merger – TCA


Just three days before Viacom’s Spike relaunches as Paramount Network, President of Spike/Par Network, TV Land and CMT Kevin Kay and the three networks’ head of development Keith Cox laid out their plans for the Paramount Network, designed to be Viacom’s leading scripted brand.

“We want to be in the hourlong drama business,” Kay said of Par Network, which is launching with three hourlong series, Waco and Yellowstone — both from the Weinstein Co.. — and Heathers, and one half-hour, American Woman. Added Cox, “Half hours — it’s very hard to tell a compelling story in that short a period of time.”

Paramount Network

Responding to a critic that the series on Paramount Network’s inaugural slate felt like they could’ve been done 20 years ago, Cox said: “I think these shows are contemporary, and know for a fact that Amazon, Hulu and Netflix wanted them. I don’t see them as old-fashioned, I see them as very premium with incredible casts.”

The casts of the shows feature such names as Kevin Costner,  Alicia Silverstone, Taylor Sheridan and Taylor Kitsch.

While they emphasized premium content, the duo talked up linear TV vs. streaming based on the anticipation involved in releasing an episode on a weekly basis. “We  want to make linear TV urgent again,” Kay said. “One of the benefits we have versus Amazon or Netflix is we’re weekly. Our pitch is if you work for us, we create a cultural conversation about your show.”

Talking about Paramount Network’s demo target, “we’re trying or reach men and women 18-49,” Kay said. “Spike is very male, sometimes 80 percent. … We don’t want the Spike audience to go away, we want to bring Spike viewers with us. That’s why we are going with Waco first — it’s a big show but has resonance with Spike viewers — and then broaden our audience.”

Waco will be the first Paramount Network original series to premiere, on January 24, followed by Heathers (March 7), American Woman (June 7) and Yellowstone (June 20).

“We want to reach all audiences,” Kay added. “Heathers is a female show, but 35- to 49-year-old men loved it; we would not have expected that. Maybe that show has broader appeal than we thought. … We feel each of these shows has something to offer.” (For Kay and Cox’s comments on Par Network’s relationship with the Weinstein Co., read our separate story.)

As for mining the Paramount library, Kay noted that the company’s TV library went to CBS in the split of the two companies, but they can license movies from Paramount Studios.

Speaking of the CBS-Paramount split, asked about speculation that the two companies might reunite, Kay said, “It’s hard to comment; I don’t know anything more than you have read [in the news].”

Lisa de Moraes contributed to this report.

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