Comedy Central president Doug Herzog Wednesday was officially named president of Spike TV, charged with developing new, network-defining original programming for the male-targeted service.
Herzog, who replaces outgoing president Albie Hecht, will oversee both Spike and Comedy under a newly created unit within Viacom Inc.-owned MTV Networks. Herzog will report to MTVN group president Herb Scannell concerning Spike and to MTVN chairman Judy McGrath concerning Comedy.
Scannell said Herzog was brought in to create quality, hit original programming for the network, which has yet to develop a signature show.
While Spike posted double-digit increases in household rating increases in 2004 -- mostly on the strength of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. programming -- the network’s primetime ratings for men 18-34 actually dropped 13% from 2003, according to Nielsen Media Research figures.
The network’s recent slate of reality-based original programming, including the second season of hit series TheJoe Schmo Show, failed to significantly drive ratings for the network.
“Clearly, the ratings are there, but we think we can move the needle in terms of original programming, and Doug has clearly had success creating signature shows for different networks in the cable world,” Scannell said, referring to Herzog’s success in developing hit shows during prior stints at USA Network (Monk), Fox Broadcasting Co. (Malcolm in the Middle) and Comedy (South Park).
While Herzog said it was too early to talk about specific projects, he added that the network will look at several programming genres, including scripted, reality and sports programming, as well as live-event content.
“I’ve inherited a network in great shape with great momentum, but in the TV business, it’s ultimately about hit shows,” he said.
Neither Scannell nor Herzog would give a firm commitment to the return of the WWE’s WWE Raw Monday-night franchise once its contract with the pro-wrestling outfit expires later this year.
“The WWE has been great in getting Spike going, and the interest [in keeping the series] is there with us,” Herzog said “Doug has to figure out where things are now and what he wants to take forward.”