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Viacom shares gain as Paramount Network reveals programming slate

A first glimpse of Viacom Inc.'s slate of new shows for its rebranded Paramount Network appeared to resonate with investors during the week that ended March 31.

Viacom's Spike TV (US) will become the Paramount Network as part of a wider effort under CEO Bob Bakish to refocus the company around six core brands and improve network ratings. On March 30, Viacom announced Paramount Network's initial lineup, which will begin airing in early 2018.

New shows for the rebranded network include "Waco," a six-part series about the deadly standoff between the FBI and followers of cult leader David Koresh; " Heathers," an adaptation of the 1988 dark comedy with the same name; and "American Woman," a half-hour series based on the life of "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Kyle Richards. Returning shows include "Lip Sync Battle," which features celebrities lip syncing to their favorite songs, as well as "Ink Master" and "Bar Rescue."

Viacom executives have said the Paramount Network will seek to court older audiences, positioning itself as an alternative to cable channels USA (US) and AMC (US), which are known for prestigious dramas.

Also during the week, Viacom announced a new leader for its Paramount Pictures. Jim Gianopulos was appointed chairman and CEO of the studio. Viacom shares gained nearly 9% on the five-day chart, ending March 31 at $46.65.

Elsewhere in the media and entertainment space, News Corp. shares gained during a week when the publishing company's CEO Robert Thomson took aim at Alphabet Inc. unit Google and Facebook Inc., which he called a " digital duopoly" that had created a "dysfunctional" environment for journalists and publishers by failing to do more to distinguish between real and fake news, according to The Australian.

Thomson's comments, in a March 29 speech at the Asia Society in Hong Kong, also criticized Google for a recent controversy over ads appearing next to extremist content on its YouTube video platform. A slew of brands in the U.S. and the U.K. have pulled their ads over concerns about placement. News Corp., which owns papers such as The Times of London and the Wall Street Journal, began testing an ad delivery network of its own in February.

News Corp. shares gained about 4% over the five days ended March 31. Shares of Alphabet, which began falling the prior week in the midst of the ad controversy, rebounded a bit, gaining about 1% over five days as the market closed March 31.

The companies' moves came as the S&P 500 reversed a downward swing from the previous week, ended the week up just under 1%, while the SNL Kagan Media and Entertainment and New Media indexes were each up over 2%.

In new media, Inc. shares rose as the e-commerce giant made a series of moves during the week.

The company announced it was closing its parenting products division Quidsi, citing lack of profitability. Meanwhile, Amazon will acquire e-commerce as it aims to expand its presence in the Middle East. Amazon is also reportedly planning an expansion into Australia and has been attempting to woo U.S. brands such as cereal maker General Mills to sell their products exclusively online, bypassing brick and mortar retail stores. Amazon shares closed up about 4% for the five days ended March 31.

Netflix Inc. also saw a jump as the streaming service followed on the heels of a series of expansions of its global programming with the release March 30 of HERMES, a tool for testing and indexing translated subtitles.

The company's test is aimed at measuring how well people applying to create subtitles for its shows can translate English idioms into global languages. Bolstering its original content for audiences around the world has been a key focus for Netflix, which is set to release its 2017 first quarter earnings on April 17. Netflix shares closed the week up nearly 3% for the five days ended March 31.

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