VH1 Continues to Sow Music/Culture Hybrid

VH1 this summer will look to capitalize on its formula of melding pop culture, music and reality with several new limited series and specials.

On tap are such star-driven or reality vehicles as A2Z, which takes a look at little-known aspects of the lives of celebrities; Smokin’ Hot Talk, a pseudo quiz show in which celebrities are asked sex-related questions; Wacky TV Passport, featuring footage of weird and wacky reality shows and commercials from around the world; and Totally Obsessed, a new series examining people with a passion for the extraordinary.

While the network — whose ratings grew 25% to a 0.5 average in primetime in May, but was flat among advertiser-coveted adults 18 to 49 — is not launching any new music-based series, VH1 president Christina Norman said the new series will feature some music elements. Further, the network will bring back new episodes of its popular series I Love the ’90s, as well as its sophomore song-based series True Spin to satisfy viewers seeking music-based programming.

The network is developing new episodes of its music/biography series Driven and Behind the Music — as well as the fall bow of music reality series The Partridge Family — to help keep the music theme running through the network while continuing to reach into pop culture genre, she said.

“We’ve been able to produce a lot of programming that our audience connects with, both in music and pop culture,” Norman said.

Just last week, the network launched a quarterly concert music special sponsored by Diageo-owned Baileys Irish Cream liqueur. Although The Baileys in Tune is a alcohol-sponsored show, Norman isn’t concerned about the series generating subscriber backlash.

“We’ve been accepting alcohol advertising on VH1 for a while, so we didn’t feel that was going to be a big issue for us,” she said.

The network will also return to the original movie-production arena with the August debut of Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story, which chronicles the life of the controversial icon.

In related news, VH1 Classic will expand its current, repeating eight-hour programming block to an additional four hours on July 5 with the debut of several new series. The digital network, currently in 33 million households, will delve into different music-video programming with the launch of The Alternative, while new series Classic/Current will feature classic as well as new music videos from veteran artists. VH1 Classic in Concert will showcase live, full-concerts from some of the greatest names in rock, pop and soul.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.