Paramount Movie Network Put On Ice As ViacomCBS Nixes Rebrand Plans For ‘Yellowstone’ Network

·3 min read

EXCLUSIVE: Paramount Network is safe, for now.

ViacomCBS has reversed plans to rebrand the cable network, home to Kevin Costner-fronted hit series Yellowstone, as Paramount Movie Network.

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Deadline understands that the company has put the plans, which first emerged in September 2020, on hold, in part due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a major impact on production.

The original strategy was to turn Paramount Network into the Paramount Movie Network, which would air 52 original movies a year with one miniseries or scripted series airing per quarter.

Development of these movie projects was originally being overseen by Meghan Hooper White, who joined the company from A+E Networks as EVP and Head of Original Movies and Limited Series in May 2020 but left little over a year later.

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As part of the rebrand plans, which were announced by Chris McCarthy, President and CEO of ViacomCBS Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios, the company canceled a slew of unscripted series including Ink Master, Wife Swap and Battle of the Fittest Couples that had aired on the station and unveiled plans to move series such as Bar Rescue and Lip Sync Battle to other channels within the portfolio.

In February 2021, the company revealed that tattoo format Ink Master was set to continue on sister streaming service Paramount+, and Bar Rescue returned to Paramount Network for its eighth season last May. The Last Cowboy, the unscripted series from Yellowstone co-creator Taylor Sheridan, moved from Paramount Network to CMT at the end of last year.

The success of Sheridan’s ranch drama Yellowstone has also played in to the decision to keep the Paramount Network in place. The show, which stars Costner as rancher John Dutton, has been a huge ratings performer for the network. In a world of declining linear viewers, the Season 4 finale hit a new series high with 9.3 million total viewers in Live+Same Day numbers, up 81% compared to the 5.2M that tuned in to the Season 3 finale. This is thought to have been helped by viewers catching up on the show — via NBCUniversal’s Peacock, which has streaming rights to the series — during the pandemic.

The latest finale beat the season opener to become the most watched telecast on cable since The Walking Dead Season 8 premiere on AMC in October 2017.

The dilemma for ViacomCBS was whether to move forward with rebranding a linear network as many viewers are moving towards streaming. Paramount+, the company’s own streaming service, launched six months after McCarthy made the initial rebrand announcement, and is a key focus for the company.

Yellowstone itself was used to launch two new Sheridan series on Paramount+. Yellowstone prequel 1883 as well as Mayor of Kingstown both received linear airings on Paramount Network behind Yellowstone in addition to their streaming runs.

In November, McCarthy said, “We think that there is an opportunity to grow in both [linear and streaming]. We use linear platforms as a launch pad to help bring those massive audiences,” he said.

However, Yellowstone has been the sole scripted drama on Paramount Network, which regularly airs feature films during primetime, for some time. Military series 68 Whiskey was canceled in September 2018 after one season; a remake of Sexy Beast was given a straight-to-series order before being axed; and Darren Star’s Emily in Paris was moved to Netflix, where it has been renewed for a third and fourth season after originally being ordered at Paramount Network.

Next up for the channel is George & Tammy, the story of Tammy Wynette and her husband George Jones starring Jessica Chastain as the first lady of country music. The series is a co-production with Spectrum Originals, which will premiere the series; it will debut on Paramount Network and Paramount+ nine months later.

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