Viacom Loses Appeal Over Spike TV

6/22/2003 8:00 PM Eastern

Viacom Inc. may have to wait until the fall to rename its men's-targeted network TNN: The National Network to Spike TV.

A New York State Appellate Court last Thursday spiked Viacom Inc.'s stay request of a preliminary injunction filed by filmmaker Spike Lee, barring the company from using the name. The court's decision could lead to a September trial.

Viacom was attempting to stop a ruling by state Supreme Court on June 12 that has stalled TNN from calling itself Spike TV. The network had planned its male-targeted makeover and name change for June 16.

In the injunction, Lee claimed the name change was a deliberate attempt to hijack his image and prestige.

Undaunted by the June 19 ruling, Viacom vowed to fight for its rights to the name.

In a statement, TNN officials said: "This case is far from over. We think today's ruling perpetuates a flawed and perplexing decision with far-reaching First Amendment implications that go well beyond the significant financial damage our network has incurred.

"We intend to appeal vigorously and still expect to be vindicated ultimately. We firmly believe we have an absolute right to use the common word 'spike' as the name of our network."

Network lawyers will appear in state Supreme Court June 23 to discuss parameters for a trial, as well as to file an appeal against the court's original injunction, said network executives. If TNN is unable to overturn the injunction or settle out of court with Lee, network sources said it might have to wait until September at the earliest to argue its case in a full-fledged trial.

That would be a costly waiting period for the network. In papers filed at the Appellate Court on June 17 by TNN senior vice president of business affairs and legal Clara Kim, the programmer claimed it would lose approximately $16.8 million for the first week alone, because of Lee's court actions.

MTV Networks had already embarked on national ad and marketing campaign for Spike TV, worth about $50 million — $30 million of which has already been committed and can't be refunded.

As part of those costs, TNN also had to cut two previously scheduled shows: Party With Spike at the Playboy Mansion
and a Spike TV episode of Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.

Further, it had to make significant changes to its sports series Slamball
—which had the Spike TV logo prominently displayed on the court — a special, Party With Spike — the After Party,
and WWE Raw.

Viacom also claimed that references to Spike TV in already printed TV guides not only cause "irreparable injury," but also loss of advertising revenue "likely to be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars."

The network also argued that the injunction forced operators to halt the process of switching TNN's logo to Spike TV, "engendering substantial confusion, expense and disruption" to operators.

Officials at Cox Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable and Comcast Corp. said their cable outfits had not suffered any financial hardships due to the injunction.

TNN said it wouldn't significantly alter its current programming lineup due to the injunction. The network is still planning a June 26 launch of its primetime animated original programming block, including such shows as Stan Lee's Stripperella, the Kelsey Grammer vehicle Gary The Rat and new episodes of the off-Nickelodeon series The Ren & Stimpy Show.

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