Paramount Network Bosses Want to “Make Linear TV Urgent Again”

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Even as Peak blooms and distributors increasingly turn to streaming and the “binge” model, the soon-to-launch Paramount Network are hoping to bring back the watercooler moments of seasons past.

“We want people to come watch live,” said Paramount Network’s President of Development and Production Keith Cox during a panel at the Critics’ Association’s winter press tour. “It’s our to make sure we find that audience.”

“One of the marketing messages we’re trying to get out there is that this is event television,” added Kevin Kay, president of Paramount Network, Land and CMT. “We want to make linear urgent again. We want people to watch it, we want people to have a conversation about it. One of the benefits we have that’s different than an Amazon or is that we’re weekly. Part of our pitch is if you come work for us, we’ll help create a conversation about your show. There are websites and conversations dedicated to Game of Thrones and Homeland, people anticipating the next week’s episode. Become part of the cultural conversation. That’s something we can do by nature of who we are. At the other places, you’re a cog in a queue, maybe people talk about it, maybe they can’t, maybe they watch it later, nobody’s watching it at the same time. That’s actually a benefit of the pay cable model.”

To create the sense of “event television,” the new network, taking over what was previously the male-driven Spike , is premiering four new series, limited series Waco starring Taylor Kitsch, a modern reboot of dark teen comedy Heathers, 1970s set American Woman, based on the childhood of Real Housewives’ Kyle Richards and Yellowstone, a sprawling Western from Taylor Sherdian, starring Kevin Costner.

Heathers is a show you’re going to want to watch weekly,” said Cox. “I don’t know if you want to binge Heathers. It’s intense.”

The new network is also hoping to broaden its audience from the young men who consumed Spike , with Waco leading the way to retain Spike’s core demographic.

“Why did we go with Waco first? Because we believe it’s a big, broad show and everybody will watch it, but we think it will still have some resonance with the Spike viewers,” Kay said. “So we’re trying to bring them over, keep them, and then broaden… Yes, we want to reach all these audiences. Heathers is probably a young, female show, although when we tested it – it shocked us – men 35-49 loved it. Would not have expected that. Maybe they love the rawness of it, the humor of it, they compared it to South Park. So even that show has broader appeal than we originally thought. We want to find our audiences and involve those audiences. We feel like each of these shows has something really special to offer and hopefully the audience will find them.”

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