Originally created 06/19/03

Viacom says Spike Lee name spat costs TNN $16.8 million in first week



NEW YORK -- Viacom Inc. said it will lose $16.8 million in the first week after filmmaker Spike Lee's so-far successful bid to keep its TNN cable network from being renamed Spike TV.

Lee, who claimed the name change was a deliberate attempt to hijack his image and prestige, won a preliminary injunction in state Supreme Court last week barring TNN from calling itself Spike TV starting Monday. Lawyers for Viacom, the media giant that owns the CBS network, appealed.

In papers filed at the Appellate Division, Viacom says it stopped displaying the Spike TV logo on television screens at 12:01 a.m. Monday, when the name change was to occur, because of the lower-court ruling by Justice Walter Tolub.

This created "confusion, expense and disruption" for cable operators and is likely to cause TNN "untold loss of advertising revenue likely to be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars."

"We have already obtained commitments from advertisers for 2003 and 2004 in excess of $100 million - specifically predicated on use of the 'Spike TV' name," court papers say. "Should we be unable to use the name, the commitments would be in severe jeopardy."

Clara Kim, TNN's vice president for business and legal affairs, said in court papers the $500,000 bond the court ordered Lee to post to pay Viacom's expenses in case the company wins "was grossly inadequate." Kim said Tuesday the network's "estimated losses for the first week of the injunction alone are in excess of $16.8 million."

Viacom, which bought TNN in 2000, also owns the Showtime movie channel, MTV, VH1, UPN and book publisher Simon & Schuster. It announced in April that it would change TNN's name to Spike TV to try to attract more men to an audience that's already about two-thirds male.

The channel, which changed its name two years ago from The Nashville Network to The National Network, shows reruns of "The A-Team," "Baywatch" and "Miami Vice" and sports entertainment such as professional wrestling, "American Gladiators," "Car and Driver Television" and "Trucks!"

TNN also carries an animated series featuring Pamela Anderson as the voice of Stan Lee's "Stripperella," an undercover agent who's also a stripper.

Spike Lee complained that TNN's name change would associate him with the "demeaning, vapid and quasi-pornographic content of Spike TV."

Viacom's lawyers say Spike is a common name that doesn't necessarily prompt thoughts of the 46-year-old film director. They said he's known as Spike Lee, not simply Spike. They also noted that "spike" is a common and frequently used word with many meanings.

Lee, whose given name is Shelton Jackson Lee, has been nominated twice for Academy Awards, for "4 Little Girls" and "Do the Right Thing." His other films include "Malcolm X," "Summer of Sam" and "Jungle Fever."