VH1 Plays With Non-Music Fare


In an effort to test its programming boundaries and boost its ratings, struggling VH1 has experimented with a number of stunts that shift the network from its music-dominated axis toward general-entertainment fare.

Under the auspices of new programming chief Brian Graden and general manager Christina Norman, the network is trying a number of weekly stunts with which it hopes to draw viewers who may not ordinarily watch the music-oriented channel. VH1's first stunt, which aired during the week of Sept. 28 through Oct. 4, featured several weekend airings of the classic Academy Award-winning mob movie The Godfather.

Other nights during that week featured venerable sitcoms from the vault of sister service TV Land, including music-themed episodes of The Brady Bunch, Happy Days, The Monkees, Charlie's Angels, The Jeffersons, All In The Family, Batman
and Square Pegs.

The stunt was one of several that will be a departure from typical VH1 fare, said network senior vice president of communications Laura Nelson.

"It's really an experiment in that the network is trying to see what the boundaries are with our audience," she said. "If there's a way for us to make it work for our audiences, then it benefits the network."

Thus far, the stunts have yielded mixed results in the ratings. VH1 — which is seeking to recapture the buzz and numbers it secured after the emergence of the Pop-Up Video
and Behind the Music
franchises in the 1990s — averaged a 0.4 primetime rating for the week of Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. That matched the network's household performance in September, according to a Turner Broadcasting System Inc. analysis of Nielsen Media Research data.

The figures exclude the network's Sept. 29 double airing of The Godfather
and The Godfather II, which averaged a 0.75 household rating from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. A primetime airing of the movie the day before averaged a 0.4 rating, according to Nielsen.

Continuing to take advantage of corporate synergies, the network in November will offer a weeklong 90th anniversary tribute to Viacom Inc. sister company Paramount Pictures Corp. As part of the celebration, VH1 will air several of the studio's music-oriented movies, including Grease, Flashdance
and Footloose.

In December, the network will air a 10-part British Broadcasting Corp. series focused on music and cultural happenings from the 1980s, Nelson said.