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Spike Chief Faces Ax

A network executive with a 57% ratings surge should be gloating, right? But not Spike TV chief Albie Hecht: He’s in danger of losing his job.

MTV Networks Chairman Judy McGrath is close to moving Hecht out as president of the self-proclaimed “first network for men,” which is struggling to pull a strong enough male demo.

Comedy Central President Doug Herzog may be given more say over the network’s programming and marketing.

It’s not clear, however, if Spike will move out of its current home, the Nickelodeon group, and into Herzog’s Comedy camp.

Another counterintuitive element in the story: Herzog might be taking a bigger hand in Spike, but that doesn’t signal a reduction of Nickelodeon Group chief Herb Scannell’s power.

Scannell’s turf is only getting bigger. MTVN insiders say Scannell will be assuming a greater corporate role, taking over some of the operations and finance duties of ex-MTVN President Mark Rosenthal, who left last year.

What’s the problem with Spike?

The network’s growth is coming from the wrong kind of viewers: women. Re-launching Spike in 2003, Hecht’s mission was to draw younger male viewers. It worked, to a point.
That first year, women accounted for just 32% of the network’s prime time viewers, making Spike the most male-skewing network in television. But nightly runs of CSI starting last year have pushed the female audience to 42%.
That would be fine if Spike were also drawing more of its targeted demo. But Spike’s ratings among men 18-34 increased a mere 4% in the fourth quarter of 2004. (It’s doing better among 18-49s, up 15%.)

The bigger problem may be that Spike hasn’t developed other programming that scores with guys.