Paramount Network to rebrand as Paramount Movie Network — My Thoughts
But First, A Brief History of Paramount Network
Paramount Network started out life as TNN: The Nashville Network, airing programming related to the country lifestyle. TNN was owned by Westinghouse, which owned CBS, which was then bought by Viacom in 1999, which owned CMT. You can imagine that Viacom didn’t exactly need two channels about the country lifestyle, so they began to rebrand TNN as The National Network, airing more grittier programming. In an attempt to move away from its Nashville roots, they decided to call it The New TNN, or The New The National Network, for some reason.
Finally, they decided to abandon the initialism and rebrand in 2003 as Spike TV “The First Network for Men,” more befitting of the male-oriented shows the channel had been airing. After years of that format not exactly winning in the ratings, the channel rebranded to more sports and reality programming, where they found more popularity with long-running shows like Bar Rescue. In 2015, Spike began to rebrand itself as a more general entertainment channel, bringing in more general shows like Lip Sync Battle and documentaries like I Am Chris Farley.
Then in 2018, seeking to ride the premium scripted train that FX and AMC started over a decade prior, Spike was rebranded as Paramount Network and introduced the insanely popular Yellowstone as well as other premium scripted shows that didn’t do as well. The idea was to let the existing reality programming run its course, and premiere more scripted shows, however Variety reported that the future of Paramount Network won’t be in premium series.
A New New Name
It was announced that Paramount Network will add one word to its title, becoming Paramount Movie Network. This is in line with the other ViacomCBS brands that will also see an expansion of made-for-TV movies. As Variety reported, ViacomCBS plans to air around 100 original movies a year, with 52 of which for Paramount Movie Network, and the rest for MTV and Comedy Central. The move wasn’t a huge shock as Paramount Network began to cut down its series, seeing 68 Whiskey and Cops’ cancellations, in addition to Ink Master, Wife Swap, and Battle of the Fittest Couples. Bar Rescue and Lip Sync Battle will move to another ViacomCBS channel, and Yellowstone will, unsurprisingly, continue.
The programming on Paramount Network currently consists of syndicated sitcoms (that can also be found on Nick at Nite and TV Land), movies (some of which also air on other ViacomCBS channels), Bar Rescue marathons, and premieres of Yellowstone, so it will be interesting to see how the channel will be programmed when an original movie isn’t premiering. I would imagine that movies in general will now have to take over the remainder of the schedule, since the word “Movie” is now in the brand. Which leads me to question the new name. Paramount is well known as a movie studio, so why is the name change necessary? If consumers are expected to embrace MTV and Comedy Central’s new line of original movies without a rename, why even bother lengthening the existing name? Plus, this new name paints the channel into a corner of only airing movies, and I’d have to imagine reruns of shows probably do better than reruns of movies all day. Not to mention, seeing as CBS All Access will see a rebrand to Paramount Plus, keeping the name Paramount Network would allow the channel to air Paramount Plus shows as a teaser to get consumers to subscribe to Paramount Plus.
I don’t disagree with the repositioning of the content, however. The scripted series on Paramount Network not named Yellowstone haven’t been hits. These shows are expensive to produce, and it isn’t as enticing in today’s entertainment landscape. Most shows experience their highest viewership on their premiere episode, so if the channel can save money by airing 1–2 hour original movies, it’s a better investment, allows ViacomCBS to afford to cast high profile actors, and adds more desirable content to Paramount Plus. Not to mention the types of programming that create buzz for Netflix are often original movies, and seeing that consumers are more likely to binge shows for long periods of time, making content that already is long-form is enticing.
For Paramount Movie Network, the move makes sense. Now the only question is where the remaining shows will go. I was surprised to see Ink Master get cancelled as the show was doing well for the network. If they believed the show wouldn’t fit on another ViacomCBS channel, I have that same question for Bar Rescue. Lip Sync Battle will fit in just fine presumably on MTV, but Bar Rescue is a question mark. While I find the show unintentionally hilarious, it won’t fit on Comedy Central, and although reality programming is MTV’s thing, it really isn’t MTV’s style. This leaves possible homes Pop (which doesn’t seem to have a future), CMT (which could work), TV Land (which seems to be a rerun channel again), and least likely BET, VH1, MTV2, and Logo. Either way, I’d prefer to continue to watch Jon Taffer shut it down. Plus, Viacom spent a ton of money acquiring the syndication rights to Seinfeld, and they announced that the show would air across Comedy Central, TV Land, and Paramount Network. Now that Comedy Central is shifting away from scripted live-action, and Paramount Network is switching to movies, will Seinfeld air exclusively on TV Land?
When I first heard of Comedy Central’s transition away from half-hour scripted series to adult animation, current event shows, and original movies, I was initially shocked, especially at the cancellations of Tosh.0 and Drunk History, as well as the relocations of The Other Two and South Side. Mainly due to the former two being Emmy-attracting and popular, and the latter two being critically acclaimed, if small on viewership. I suppose the big unknown is what will these original movies be. Seeing as John Mulaney is working on a few specials for Comedy Central, it seems that stand-up will still be a part of the channel, but is this what they consider a “movie?” Is the word “movie” just being used to represent a multi-hour long program, not necessarily something theatrical?
I will still be very interested to see what original movies will air across Comedy Central, MTV, and of course Paramount Movie Network. Considering the hits that Netflix seems to endlessly produce, I’m guessing ViacomCBS wants in on that while saving money producing content, and adding more value to Paramount Plus, a move that Peacock is lacking, and HBO Max has been taking advantage of for decades. Time will tell how well these movies will do in the ratings, but if Paramount Plus wants to be competitive, it’s going to need all the content it can get.