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Music tv hasn’t looked like music tv in fairly some time—​just ask anyone that watched MTV in the '90s. Yet this isn't simply a exhausted remark around a single network. For VH1, the veering far from music television has a various meaning. Initially an MTV sister network peddling soft absent to an older crowd, the cable channel has actually moved from creating generic pop society programming come greenlighting shows that target a specifically black demographic.

That transition began in 2006, with Flavor the Love, a fact dating display starring windy Enemy's Flavor Flav. It instantly came to be a huge ratings success. Later on that year, Flavor that Love 2 piggybacked top top its predecessor's structure and set an all-time premiere ratings record for the network. It was the most watched cable program in the 10 p.m. Sunday time slot, averaging 3.3 million viewers every episode. Flavor the Love 2's season finale traction in a chuck 7.5 million viewers; meaning, follow to PR Newswire, one in every 3 black consumers watching TV that Sunday night were tuned into VH1.

This didn’t walk unnoticed. Flavor that Love​'s success immediately spawned the spin-off I Love new York! in beforehand 2007, headlined by previous Flavor that Love contestant Tiffany "New York" Pollard. Unsurprisingly, I Love brand-new York! damaged the premiere document previously set by smell of Love 2 only five months earlier, illustration in 4.4 million viewers. By April, there was already a second smell of Love spinoff top top the air: Flavor that Love Girls: Charm School. Including to the post-Flavor Flav hit streak, I Love brand-new York! received a second season in 2008 and later produced its very own spinoffs: New York Goes come Hollywood, New York Goes come Work, and Real possibility of Love.

VH1 was making a play for black color viewers.


According come Nielsen’s 2013 State the the African-American customer Report, 37% that African-Americans watch TV—more than any type of other racial group—and the current buying strength of the African-American customer is end $1 trillion, with forecasts predicting it will reach $1.3 trillion by 2017. A different Nielsen report indigenous 2011 states that black color viewers have the greatest rate of full TV usage, ​an mean of seven hours and also 12 minutes every day.

VH1's existing programming reflects the network's desire come take benefit of that success among African-American viewers. The most recent VH1 rock Docs to be Hip Hop & the LA Riots and ATL: The Untold Story of Atlanta’s rise in the lab Game. Critical October, the original biopic CrazySexyCool: The TLC Story scored 4.5 million viewers and set Twitter ablaze. And earlier this year, VH1 ran brand developer Steve Stout’s mini doc series, The tanning of America. Black color programming, or programming with mostly black casts that cater come an African-American viewership, has actually taken end VH1.

"I didn't begin to really notification the readjust until Love & i know good Hop: Atlanta's very first season," states Danielle Belton, a writer and social media consultant that comments on television consistently on Twitter. "I was no a constant VH1 watcher and also I'd assumed mistakenly that the new York version of Love & i know well Hop was on BET. Ns hadn't establish yet the the truth shows my friends were talking around were every on VH1 and Bravo. After ~ I started watching Love & hip Hop: Atlanta it clicked. I assumed VH1 had actually accidentally stumbled upon a black viewership and were exhilaration without genuine coordination. Yet after Love & i know well Hop: Atlanta it became very clear the VH1 wanted black color viewers. This effort was coordinated."

Of course, these shows aren’t solely entertaining to black color audiences, however they’ve had a hand in boosting black viewership. When comparing two various VH1 network profiles from 2007 and 2011, the white viewership dipped indigenous 76.32% to 50%, if the black viewership soared indigenous 11.21% to 40%. Those room dramatic move that show a trend: There's a direct correlation in between the boost in black programming, the increase in black viewership, and the subsequent decrease in white viewership.

"I would certainly guess VH1 go this due to the fact that it essential an identity," states Belton. "As music videos waned, VH1 had to decide exactly how to rebrand. VH1 was mostly personality-free till Surreal Life debuted and started the chain of fact shows its rolling out. Now, VH1 is still a slightly much more mature MTV, however an MTV that clearly knows black civilization watch television and also they desire to compete for those viewers. That made sense to perform this, considering the only other networks targeting african American's fully are their sister network BET and also TV One."

After much more or less neglecting African-American viewers for most of its earlier run, VH1 has actually started to manipulate the financially rewarding consumer base, an increasing its primetime number to all-time highs v programming the caters especially to the target demographic. Once the network all of sudden struck gold through Flavor that Love, it gradually shifted that focus and also prioritized black mirrors for ratings, which argues that black color programming deserve to be rewarding and the investing in it will bring around returns.

The VH1 programming overview is now dominated by shows starring mainly black casts, including Love & i know good Hop (and all five of the spin-offs), T.I. & Tiny: The household Hustle, Basketball Wives (and Basketball Wives LA), Atlanta Exes, Single Ladies, and Black squid Crew. Furthermore, because 2008 VH1 has included films like House Party, New Jack City, How Stella obtained Her Groove Back, Waiting to Exhale, Love Jones, and Black Knight to that is schedule. 

VH1 quiet produces various other programs that cater to audiences exterior of the black demo, yet the black color programming is crushing those shows in the ratings. Mob Wives, for instance, among the network’s most famous shows without a generally black cast, consistently won that 8 p.m. Sunday time slot in 2012, averaging 1.1 million viewers. That very same year, The household Hustle, Love & i know well Hop: Atlanta, and Basketball Wives every beat out those numbers through averages of 1.5 million, 1.8 million, and also 1.7 million, respectively.

After an ext or less neglecting African-American viewers for most of its previously run, VH1 has began to manipulate the lucrative consumer base, raising its primetime numbers to all-time highs through programming the caters particularly to the target demographic.

When comparing the live-plus-same-day numbers of Love & i know good Hop: Atlanta (3.6 million average), Love & i know good Hop (3.1 million average), and Basketball Wives (2.1 million average) with Mob Wives (1.2 million average), Candidly Nicole (531 thousand average), and also LeeAnn & Eddie (370 thousands average), the shows with primarily black casts double, and in some instances triple, the ratings of their non-black counterparts. One much more example: I heart Nick Carter premiered to just under a fifty percent million viewers in September, while Love & hip Hop Hollywood premiered come 5.3 million viewers that same month.

The historic context is crucial here. VH1's strongest reflects in 2005 to be Hogan knows Best, The Surreal Life, Strange Love, and also Celebrity right Club, no one of which featured largely black casts, and the most successful of i beg your pardon (Hogan knows Best) premiered through numbers that its present shows now average (1.9 million).

It’s a brand-new age because that VH1.


Recent comments from VH1 executives have actually implied the they aren’t exactly happy about this trend. Previously this year, Susan Levison, VH1’s executive vice president, called The Hollywood Reporter, "The goal is to lug a general market audience ago into the wrinkles in addition to servicing our African-American audience," which is a not-so-subtle means of saying that the brand-new black programming has actually driven the original VH1 audience away. The network’s five biggest ratings draws in 2013 were Love & hip Hop (3.3 million), The family members Hustle (2.2 million), Marrying the Game (2.1 million), Hit the Floor (2.1 million), and also Basketball Wives (1.9 million).

The momentum hasn't slowed under in 2014. Love & i know good Hop: Atlanta's third season drew 5.6 million viewers in May, while Tiny & Shekinah’s Weave expedition premiered in October to 2.2 million viewers. ~ above Monday, October 21, VH1 reflects were just beaten the end by ESPN’s Monday Night Football and also USA’s Monday Night Raw. The data suggests that VH1 is struggling to affix with audiences outside of its current market.

VH1 may also be on the road to walking head-on against black television powerhouse BET. In 2012, despite still win the black demo by a broad margin, BET began to see a ratings decrease just as VH1 to be making major gains with its black programming. VH1 comment by including even more black programming. It’s now only a couple of paces behind the leader in black color entertainment. Forbes reports that VH1 is up 20% in primetime amongst adults 18-49, and also is driving declaring revenue for its parent company, Viacom. In the end, Viacom, which owns both media properties, is the actual winner.

Black programming will continue to pat a duty in VH1's future. Yet in what capacity? have the right to the network find the happy medium between the easy-to-produce, black-targeting program that have made the so successful and the programming that created its identification in the late-'90s through the mid-2000s, the programming the executives it seems ~ to want back? only time will certainly tell. Yet the number don't lie, and there may be no turning back now.

As they say, once you walk black, you never ever go back.

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Sheldon Pearce is a contributing writer for discoverhotmail.com Pop society and an editor at Earmilk.