VH1 Continues to Sow Music/Culture Hybrid

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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.