Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Broadcast: Paramount Channel to launch in the UK

Story from Broadcast:

Channel 5 owner Viacom is to launch another free-to-air channel in the UK and is exploring a potential move into premium scripted programming.

The launch of Paramount Channel in the UK follows that of Viacom-owned Spike in April 2015.

Paramount Channel currently operates in 115 countries around the world and primarily airs films, with a handful of acquired dramas.

The move comes as Viacom, which also operates MTV and Comedy Central, is preparing to launch entertainment and drama-focused Paramount Network in the US.

It will air a mix of big-budget entertainment shows such as Lip Sync Battle and scripted series such as Yellowstone – directed and written by Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan – Heathers and American Woman.

Paramount Network president Kevin Kay told Broadcast earlier this year that it will be a home to “premium” entertainment formats and “HBO-quality” drama and comedy.

While Paramount Channel UK will not initially air these big budget dramas, it is understood that the long-term plan is to share programming with the US network and eventually commission its own scripted originals and co-produce with the US channel.

Channel 5 director of programmes Ben Frow is working closely on the launch with MTV and Comedy Central UK managing director Jill Offman, who was recently handed control of the Paramount Channel internationally.

Both Frow and Offman will have input into the structure of the new channel, and Frow’s editorial team at C5 will look after scheduling and programming, as it does for Spike.

Frow, who ruled himself out of the running for the position of Channel 4 chief creative officer last month, could also leverage oversight of Paramount Channel’s scripted offerings as a way to bolster his scripted credits.

While C5 has flirted with comedy and drama, it has yet to fully join the scripted sector in the UK. Viacom, which doesn’t operate a major scripted channel in the US, is keen to move into global high-end drama.

Bob Bakish, who was appointed Viacom chief executive in December, is keen to leverage in-house film and TV production unit Paramount Pictures.

In February, he said the under-utilisation of the studio had been a “missed opportunity” for the company.

A launch date and Freeview slot for Paramount Channel UK have not yet been determined.