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Paramount Network Unveils 2018 Slate, Renews ‘Lip Sync Battle’

Variety logo Variety 3/30/2017 Daniel Holloway
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Paramount Network has revealed its initial programming slate for its 2018 relaunch — a roster that includes new scripted series and a returning favorite in unscripted hit “Lip Sync Battle,” which has been renewed.

The fourth season of the Stephen Merchant- and John Krasinski-produced celebrity competition series “Lip Sync Battle” is set to debut in January, as its home, Viacom-owned Spike TV, relaunches as Paramount Network. The third season of the show is currently in production and set to premiere April 20.

In addition to “Lip Sync Battle,” Paramount Network has slated three new scripted series and one new documentary. hour-long drama “Heathers” and half-hour comedy “American Woman,” will premiere next year along with limited series “Waco” and documentary film “I Am Martin Luther King Jr.” Next year will also see new seasons of veteran Spike unscripted shows “Ink Master” and “Bar Rescue,” as well as Bellator MMA programming.

“As we started to think about how we wanted to develop the slate, we wanted to make sure that we live up to the brand promises that come along with Paramount,” said Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network and fellow Viacom brands TV Land and CMT.

Paramount Network is at the center of a reorganization of Viacom’s cable brands initiated last month by CEO Bob Bakish. That plan calls for Spike TV to be rebranded as Paramount Network and transformed from a male-skewing hub for low-cost reality TV to a broad-based premium entertainment channel. It also calls for the prioritization of Paramount Network and high-profile channels such as Comedy Central and MTV over less strongly positioned brands such as CMT and TV Land.

As part of that resource shift, Viacom confirmed this month that “Heathers” and “American Woman,” which had been in development at TV Land, would migrate to Paramount Network. But Kay says that existing series such as TV Land’s “Younger” and CMT’s “Nashville” will not be moving to the relaunched network. TV Land, CMT and the 17 other Viacom channels not identified by Bakish as core brands still generate more than $1 billion a year in revenue.

“One of the things that we have to be conscious of is that TV Land and CMT are vibrant brands that are incredibly successful and make a lot of money,” Kay said. “The cornerstones of those networks need to stay on those networks.”

Kay also said that the January premiere of season four of “Lip Sync Battle” would be broadcast live from the Paramount lot in Hollywood, and would likely feature stars of the network’s new scripted programs.

He added that he envisions a balance of scripted and unscripted programming for the network — with all programming aspiring to the premium production values of premiere cable brands such as HBO and FX.

What the schedule for his new slate looks like has yet to be determined.

“I do believe there’s a comedy night, a drama night, a fight night with Bellator,” Kay said, noting that the network announced Tuesday an upcoming Bellator pay-per-view event to take place at Madison Square Garden. “There will probably be 14 or 15 [original series] when you add them all up.”

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