Spike TV Playing Harder

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Spike TV, as part of its continuous effort to attract more male viewers, has been quietly adding more sports-related fare to its lineup.

The network — whose schedule includes original series; reruns of the Star Trek spinoffs and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation; and James Bond movies — last week unveiled several sports-related documentaries during its part of parent MTV Networks’ upfront presentation for advertisers, held here last Wednesday.

The announcement comes on the heels of the network’s telecasts of 16 Champ Car World Series races, which began airing last month, and the April 30 replay of the Chris Byrd-Andrew Golota heavyweight championship fight (televised initially on pay-per-view April 17).

Spike’s boxing telecast generated a respectable 0.5 rating.

Spike TV senior vice president of sports and specials Jim Burns said the network is looking to devote as much as 30% of its overall programming lineup to sports fare, which appeals to its core male 18-49 audience. That includes sports-entertainment programming like World Wrestling Entertainment and Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, as well as sports features on such regularly scheduled series as 10 Things Every Guy Should Experience and Ride With Funkmaster Flex.

While he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of bidding for live sports events, he said the network will most likely offer programming to entice casual sports viewers. “I’m interested in whatever the guys are interested in,” he said. “It’s not about the hard core fan, but rather the guy who says, 'I don’t know much about auto racing, maybe I’ll watch it because it’s on Spike and I like Spike.’ ”

Sports documentaries set to air on the network later this year include Hardwood Dreams 2, a look at a quintet of Los Angeles-area high school basketball players and a follow-up to the critically acclaimed 1994 Sundance Film Festival award-winning Hoop Dreams; Viva Baseball, which chronicles the influence of Latino baseball players on the game; Testosterone Boys, which examines the lives of amateur bodybuilders; and Glory Days, a look at the off the field lives of today’s marquee athletes, said the network.

Spike also announced several non-sports related documentaries, including Fatherhood In America and The Precinct, a six-part series that explores the lives of police officers in one of America’s most notorious precincts.

The network will also launch two new reality series, Tripped Out: The Ultimate Guy Vacation and I Hate My Job.

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