Philippe Dauman, President and CEO of Viacom, has confirmed the media group’s long-term commitment to UK commercial PublicService Broadcaster Channel 5, which it acquired for £450 million in May 2014.
Dauman made the comment as he revealed that the UK would be the first international territory to roll out popular US cable network Spike, an initiative he said was made possible by Viacom’s ownership of Channel 5, which gave it access to a pipeline of factual content. “Combined with Spike’s US content and targeted acquisitions, it represents a powerful programme line-up that we are very confident will prove popular with British TV viewers. We believe this launch will establish a strong foundation for Spike launches in other countries.”
Spike will launch on UK DTT platform Freeview early in 2015, making it instantly available free-to-air to an additional 11 million homes in the UK.
Addressing members of the Broadcasting Press Guild in London, Dauman noted Viacom’s long-standing involvement in the UK, beginning with the launch of MTV Europe in 1987 and subsequent launches of kids service Nickelodeon in 1992 and Comedy Central in 1995. “The UK is our second home. We see it as a hub for international expansion,” he said. He said that Viacom was “here to compete; to win more viewership,” and sought to allay fears by declaring “the wonderful thing is that it’s about growing the business. It’s not about cost-cutting. We are a media company; it’s our lifeblood.”
Noting that the service had undergone two changes of ownership since its launch in 1997, he asserted: “We are going to own Channel 5 for ever!” The opportunity to acquire the broadcaster came at the right time for Viacom, according to Dauman, and was not a circumstance that was going to be replicated.
He felt that Channel 5 could become bigger than the UK’s Channel 4. “That’s the first step,” he quipped, suggesting that the stable of channels gave it chance to compete at a much larger level. “Competition makes you bigger and stronger,” he said.
He said that Viacom had entered the market for long-term value creation, which he felt would benefit from the ability of consumers’ increased ability to enjoy their content on a greater number of devices. “We are going to bring our capability as a large company to that area,” he advised.
Spike will be managed out of Channel 5 under Viacom International Media Networks UK’s ownership, with a new channel manager to be appointed, reporting to Channel 5 Programme Director, Ben Frow.
Channel 5 Sales will continue to represent the airtime for 5USA and 5*, while advertising sales for Spike will be handled by Sky Media, which sells the airtime for VIMN’s UK portfolio of more than 20 pay TV channels.
VIMN is also aiming to secure distribution for Spike on Virgin Media and on the UK’s digital satellite platforms.
Spike’s launch on Freeview will be made possible by the removal of VIVA from the platform. The free-to-air UK TV rights to Viacom content previously owned by VIVA will now be made available to 5*, while VIVA will continue to be available to cable and satellite viewers in the UK and Ireland.