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Rebranding of Spike TV Gets in Gear

Apr 26, 2004  •  Post A Comment

Marking its first branding initiative since its relaunch last August, Spike TV will attempt to drive its viewership with a new campaign emphasizing its auto-related programming.
The network will proclaim May to be “Motor Mayhem Month” as it spotlights its car-culture programming. Saturday nights will be branded “Saturday Night Drive,” with new episodes of reality series “Ride With Funkmaster Flex,” “Reality of Speed,” “Trucks,” “Horsepower TV” and “Car and Driver Television” shifted into prime time, network President Albie Hecht said last week.
At the end of the month, the network will whether to make “Saturday Night Drive” permanent.
Mr. Hecht spoke about Spike’s new tack while attending the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, held April 16-18 and co-sponsored by Spike. He rode in the pace car. It was his first time at an auto race. “It’s the Spike life, man,” he said.
While competitors such as MTV’s “Pimp My Ride” and “American Chopper” have become the latest cable reality buzz makers, Spike TV has quietly built up its own auto programming-with no fewer than six shows related to cars, trucks, racing and motorcycling.
In June the network will roll out a new, more mechanical look and feel-with a revised, workmanlike yellow and black logo. The May branding shift and Grand Prix sponsorship are at least partly an effort to snag more automotive advertisers. Since its belated Spike TV has made steady progress in growing its audience, but hasn’t yet broken out of its former TNN ratings strata to join the lofty realm occupied by other Viacom networks, such as Comedy Central and MTV.
For instance, this year, according to Nielsen Media Research, the network had its best quarter yet-0.8 for men 18 to 49 (up 14 percent from last year) and total day household of 0.5 (up 25 percent). But in terms of ad sales, the network had more modest gains. TNS Media Intelligence/ CMR reports the network received $260 million in ad dollars in 2002 and $280 million in 2003 (for about half of the year, it was still branded as TNN).
Mr. Hecht said his network has gained a sense of identity since August.
“It used to be we were the old TNN, then we are the one changing their name, then the one with the lawsuit,” said Mr. Hecht. “Now we don’t have to describe ourselves four levels deep. People know who we are.”
According to a cable programming analyst with a major ad-buying firm, Spike TV is “on the right path, but they haven’t reached the finish line yet.”
“Not only are their acquisitions on brand so are their originals, and they seem to be doing well with young men,” she said. “From an advertiser perspective, we still want to get them up to Viacom standards. Instead of jumping on bandwagons (first animation, now auto programming), we’d like to see them as more of a leader.”
Also coming to Spike is a second Video Game Awards, which will air sometime in December, as well as a new reality series (“I Hate My Job”) and the sophomore season of the reality spoof “The Joe Schmo Show.” This time, the “Schmo” format will mimic reality dating shows such as “The Bachelor.” Mr. Hecht dismissed any concern that his male demographic might not be interested in a spoof of a female-centric genre.
“They know enough about [dating reality shows] to get it,” Mr. Hecht said. “You can’t be part of the culture without seeing clips from these shows.”
In September the acquisition “CSI” will be expanded from its current Friday night slot to five nights a week.
Asked what he’s learned since Spike TV’s debut, Mr. Hecht was circumspect.
“We learned more about being experts on men, that whether they’re 35, 49 or 18 years old, they all have some things in common-like a wide range of interests. Not just sports but documentaries, lifestyle, reality-and in order to be the network for men, we have to provide all of it.”