VH1 in Talks for New Series

Oct 6, 2003  •  Post A Comment

VH1’s pursuit of pop culture is leading the cable channel to syndication’s newsmagazines.
The Viacom-owned cabler is in serious negotiations with Telepictures for a new series from the producers of “Extra” spinoff “Celebrity Justice” that will look at musicians and their run-ins with the law, according to sources. The hour-long show will have access to “Extra’s” and “Celebrity Justice’s” staffs to create content different from the syndicated series.
VH1 already has deals with both NBC Enterprises’ “Access Hollywood” and Paramount Domestic Television’s “Entertainment Tonight” to provide content for the series “All Access” and “E.T.,” respectively, on VH1. “All Access” is a magazine/lifestyle show that embraces celebrity and current pop culture. The series has examined everything from TV’s most powerful stars to celebrity breakups. Meanwhile, “ET on VH1” offers a wrap-up of the week’s entertainment news that has a focus on musicians.
Executives from both VH1 and Telepictures would not comment on the deal.
One rival executive said that by mining the abilities of the newsmagazines to stay on top of the pulse of pop culture, both the newsmagazines and the channel will win.
“This is an era all about branding,” said the head of development at a rival cable outlet. “For VH1 to continue to utilize the resources of the broadcast newsmagazines, they receive the benefit of years of teamwork and knowledge from the show’s staff, while the newsmagazines benefit by expanding their brand to a new generation of viewers who probably do not watch broadcast stations at 7 [p.m.] or 7:30 p.m.”
The recent series of programming moves has given the channel its most-watched summer ever, led by the “I Love the ’70s” franchise. VH1 is up 33 percent from a year ago in prime time in the key 18 to 49 demo.
VH1 executives stressed in recent months that clip-driven series and a focus on popular culture will be at the heart of VH1’s new programming strategy. In a recent interview with TelevisionWeek, VH1 General Manager Christina Norman said the strategy has worked with shows such as “I Love the ’70s” and “200 Greatest Pop Culture Icons,” helping the channel break out of its ratings downslide.
“We have had incredible growth in the year since you started to see these new programs,” said Ms. Norman, adding that the network’s to-date third-quarter ratings have risen 33 percent vs. last year as VH1’s summer ratings set a record for the channel. “`I Love the ’70s’ was a powerhouse for us.” (TelevisionWeek, Sept. 8).
Nielsen figures show that VH1’s summer prime-time ratings (May 26 through Aug. 31, 2003) have jumped sharply year over year, with total viewers surging 42 percent to 529,000. In the 18 to 49 demo, the network has seen a 42 percent jump in viewers to 352,000, according to Turner Broadcasting research.
After some analysts felt that once-hot series “Behind the Music,” was overexposed, VH1 saw its ratings tumble 40 percent between January 2001 and March 2002, before the channel tweaked its programming to expand its target audience to baby boomers and Gen X’ers from strictly baby boomers. That move was followed by a series of executive shuffles that included expanding the duties of MTV’s Brian Graden to oversee programming, production and development at VH1.
The channel debuted “Surviving Nugent” on Sunday, a game show in which seven contestants are placed at the mercy of rocker Ted Nugent to win cash and prizes.