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Spike Still Spikes Spike

For now, The old National Network is the New TNN for Men—hardly the dramatic name change the Viacom-owned channel had been plotting. TNN's plans to change its name to Spike TV were scuttled for a second time last week when a panel of Appellate Division judges in New York City upheld an injunction granted to filmmaker Spike Lee June 12.

That ruling halted plans to rename the network Spike TV. TNN had been seeking the freeze the injunction.

TNN was to have become Spike, a name that got some pretty bad press anyway, on June 16. But that was before Spike … Lee.

The network, part of the MTV Networks group, vows to continue its legal fight. "We intend to appeal vigorously and still expect to be vindicated ultimately," TNN said in a statement. "We firmly believe we have an absolute right to use the common word 'spike' as the name of our network."

But it will not be Spike TV any time soon. MTVN gets another shot to appeal in September, and the dispute could go to trial.

The legal wrangling with Lee (who is represented by star lawyer Johnnie Cochran Jr.) has been costly. In court documents, MTVN says it lost $16.8 million in the first week after the injunction. The losses will mount to $42.7 million in advertising and promotional value if it is never allowed to relaunch as Spike TV, the company claims. MTVN has already laid out $30 million to advertise and market Spike TV, TNN lawyer Clara Kim said in court papers. Another $2 million has been spent on on-air promotion and marketing to cable MSOs.

The network says its ad-sales business will suffer, too, since more than $100 million in advertising has been sold "predicated on the use of the Spike name," Kim said. TNN recorded $294 million in ad revenue in 2002, according to Kagan World Media.

In ruling in Lee's favor last week, the judge instructed him to post a $500,000 bond to cover any damages for TNN if the channel wins a future ruling, an amount Kim called "grossly inadequate."

The injunction, says Kim, "destroys the defendants' carefully timed renaming strategy in a way that could not be adequately compensated by monetary damages."

Lee contends that TNN is trying to profit off his likeness and name. He shuns being associated with its new guy image and programming and says TNN's use of "Spike" will cause confusion in the marketplace.

An MSNBC online poll, however, suggests otherwise. Of 2,600 respondents, 71% said Spike TV did not make them think of Lee.

Still, TNN is keeping its plan to be "the first network for men." A new block of adult animation, including Gary the Rat, with Kelsey Grammar, and Stripperella, with Pamela Anderson, debuts Thursday as planned. Other guy-oriented programming is on the way.

TNN had to scramble to make a few last minute programming changes. Two launch-day specials, one on the Playboy Mansion and another, Most Extreme Elimination Challenge, spoofing an old Japanese game show, were postponed because they were heavily branded as Spike programming. TNN says its June 16 installment of World Wrestling Entertainment's highly-rated Raw had to be modified at the last minute because it featured a lot of Spike TV signage. The network says its producers are still reworking other shows to remove Spike TV references.