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CAB wants to spike Spike

OTTAWA - A format change to what once was The Nashville Network means the CRTC should look into removing the channel from the list of eligible satellite services that Canadians are allowed watch, says the Canadian Association of Broadcasters.

TNN will officially disappear on June 16th, re-named SpikeTV and billing itself as "the first network for men."

The channel has long since ceased being the line-dancin', George Jones-lovin' tight-jeans-and-big-hair (yee-haw!) Nashville Network and has morphed into "The New TNN", aimed at a young, not-exactly-sophisticated, male demographic.

The Viacom-owned channel has ditched all remnants of the channel's past and populated its schedule with shows like Blind Date, SlamBall, Baywatch reruns, Real TV and the upcoming Pamela Anderson cartoon, Stripperella.

Film director Spike Lee has launched a lawsuit against the new name saying it infringes on his own name. Click here for that story.

In a letter to the Commission, the CAB contends that since it is no longer about country music and the Dukes of Hazzard, the channel now infringes on the genre protection extended to Canadian specialty services.

"The CAB is concerned that this format change, which will include a revised programming focus on travel, finance, cars, health and sports entertainment, will result in TNN/Spike TV becoming directly competitive with a number of existing Canadian specialty and pay services that under current regulations are afforded genre-protection," says CAB president and CEO Glenn O'Farrell's letter.

"Based on Viacom's press release, it is clear that the re-formatted service will compete directly with, among others, Men TV, CTV Travel, ROB Tv, Discovery Health Network, TSN, the Score, and Sportsnet."

"Spike TV is going to be a great addition to our portfolio of channels and will laser in on its target male demo and serve them the way Nickelodeon serves kids and TV Land serves classic TV lovers," said TNN president Albie Hecht in that press release.

The CAB emphasized the Commission's policy with respect to the inclusion of competitive non-Canadian services on the lists of eligible satellite services, as set out in Public Notice CRTC 1997- 96, is that:
* it will not authorize non-Canadian services that can be considered either totally or partially competitive with existing Canadian pay or specialty services;
* it will consider the removal of existing non-Canadian services from the lists if they undergo a change in format so as to become competitive with a Canadian pay or specialty service; (emphasis added from CAB letter)
* it will not be disposed to remove a non-Canadian service from the lists, even should it license, in the future, a Canadian service in a competitive format.

O'Farrell pointed out that TNN/Spike has a comfortable home on the first, well-penetrated tier of most cable large cable systems and, "a change in format of TNN to a format competitive with Canadian specialty services could have a devastating effect on the audiences and advertising revenues that Canadian specialty services in a competing format are able to obtain," said the letter.

TNN/Spike is available in over 86 million homes in North America.

"In light of the announced format change and re-branding of TNN, the CAB respectfully requests that the Commission immediately initiate a public proceeding to determine whether it should remove TNN/Spike TV from the lists of eligible satellite services."

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