Music network Fuse has finally discovered a formula for spinning tired videos into buzzworthy TV: Add a striptease.
The Rainbow Media-owned channel’s new Saturday late-night show “Pants-Off Dance-Off” features Fuse fans dancing in front of their favorite videos while taking off their clothes. The camera cuts away before dancers remove their underwear, but viewers are directed to Fuse’s Web site to see more.
Fuse said traffic on Fuse.com has shot up 300 percent since the series’ April 18 debut (the exclusive “nude” portions of the online videos are blurred).
To take advantage of the momentum, Fuse General Manager Catherine Mullen has ordered a 30-episode second season, signed Jodie Sweetin (“Full House”) to host some best-of specials and is planning to take “Pants-Off” on the road to various college towns.
TV Guide proclaimed “Pants-Off” “the dumbest show on television.” New York Magazine called it “brilliant” and “lowbrow.” But Ms. Mullen said she doesn’t care what the critics say as long as they’re talking about a Fuse program.
Fuse has tried repeatedly over the years to build its audience by unearthing new ways to present music videos in a unique format. Past ideas include “Foreplay,” in which the screen was divided into four quadrants, with one featuring a music video and the others showing extreme sports. Fuse also tried “Fuse Video Remix,” which allowed viewers to edit videos by their favorite bands. Such efforts failed to move the needle.
Nielsen ranked Fuse 63rd out of 64 rated networks during the 2006 first quarter among 18- to 49-year-old viewers in prime time.
“Fuse has got a great audience composition, they just don’t have enough audience,” said Brad Adgate, senior VP of research at Horizon Media. “They’ve been stampeded by the MTV digital platform.”
One apparently appealing aspect of the new Fuse series to viewers is the diversity of the dancers. While music television behemoth MTV typically casts attractive 18- to-24-year-olds on dance shows, the Fuse series features dancers of every age and shape.
“This is definitely the Everyman show,” Ms. Mullen said. “It’s amazing the people who come in. We have a 58-year-old retired schoolteacher, we had a girl in a bear costume. People have so much fun, and it shows.”
In recent weeks MTV has announced two dance series of its own. Though neither features stripteases, Ms. Mullen, a former MTV executive, said she heard “Pants-Off” buzz was an influence.
MTV had no comment.
“I invited some producers from MTV to be on `Pants-Off,’ but they declined,” Ms. Mullen said. “They didn’t think [the invite] was as funny as I did.”