TNN changes name to Spike, focuses on men's programming

— Spike is no longer just the name of a famous film director or a volleyball move. Now it's the name of a cable network, too.

Struggling TNN -- which just two years ago changed from The Nashville Network to The National Network-- announced Tuesday that, effective June 16, it will call itself Spike TV and become the first network aimed specifically at men.

"We just like the idea of having a guy's name," said Albie Hecht, network president. "We thought that was smart and fun and irreverent."

TNN's switch isn't exactly a stretch. Since it already airs World Wrestling Entertainment, "Star Trek: The Next Generation" and a made-up game of basketball played on trampolines called "slam ball," nearly two-thirds of TNN's audience is male, anyway.

Lifetime, Oxygen and the Women's Entertainment network all seek female viewers. Although outlets like ESPN have a mostly male audience, Hecht said Spike TV is the first to explicitly identify this as a goal.

The switch also enables TNN, and parent company Viacom, a chance to outmaneuver the publishers of Maxim magazine. Dennis Publishing is developing a cable channel called the Maxim Entertainment Network, or MEN.

Viacom's attempt two years ago to keep the TNN initials, though, confused some viewers who still saw it as a regional, country music-oriented channel.

TNN's ratings have been sagging, with an average prime-time audience of a little more than 1 million viewers during the first three months of 2003, down 16 percent from the same year-earlier period. TNN dropped from the eighth-most popular basic cable station to 14th.

Its most popular programs, Monday's two WWE wrestling shows, are off 22 percent in viewership, with "Star Trek" down 32 percent, Nielsen Media Research said.

They will remain on Spike TV. Spike will also work with Men's Health magazine to produce segments on fitness or relationships, and CBS Marketwatch to provide financial updates.

New programs in the works include "A Guy and His Stuff," about gizmos and gadgets, and "Top 10 Things Every Guy Should Experience," which will follow men to top sporting events like the Super Bowl.

Spike TV is already available in 86 million television homes.

Despite the name, Hecht promises the network will be no He-Man Woman Hater's Club.

"We'll be unapologetically male," he said. "But it will also be a place where women are welcomed."

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