(known as VH-1: Video Hits One
and VH1: Music First
) is an American cable television
network based in New York City
. Launched on January 1
, the original purpose of the channel was to build on the success of MTV
by playing music videos
, but targeting an older demographic than its sister channel, focusing on the lighter, softer side of popular music
. The channel was originally created by Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment
, at the time a division of Warner Communications
and owner of MTV
. Both VH1 and its sister channel MTV are currently part of the MTV Networks
division of corporate parent Viacom
. While VH1 still occasionally plays music videos and the Top 20 Video Countdown
, its more recent claim to fame has been in the area of music-related reality programming, such as Behind the Music
, the I Love the...
series, the Celebreality
block of programming, and the channel's overall focus on popular culture
Early history of VH-1 (1985-1994)
Format and VJs
VH-1's aim was to focus on the lighter, softer side of popular music, including such musicians as Carly Simon, Tina Turner, Elton John, Sting, Donna Summer, Kenny G, and Anita Baker, in hopes of appealing to people aged 18 to 35, and possibly older. Also frequently featured in the network's early years were "videos" for Motown and other 1960s oldies consisting of newsreel and concert footage. It was introduced on January 1, 1985 with the video performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Marvin Gaye.
From the start, Video Hits One was branded as an urbane version of its sister/parent channel. It played more jazz and R&B artists than MTV and had a higher rotation of urban-contemporary performers. Its early on-camera personalities were New York radio veterans Don Imus (then of WNBC); Frankie Crocker (then program director and DJ for WBLS); Scott Shannon (of Z100); Jon Bauman ("Bowzer" from Sha Na Na); Bobby Rivers; and Rita Coolidge.
Later VJs included Tim Byrd of WPIX-FM (now WQCD), a station whose eclectic ballad-and-R&B oriented format mirrored that of VH-1; and Alison Steele ("The Nightbird" of WNEW-FM). Rosie O'Donnell later joined the outlet's veejay lineup. O'Donnell would also host a stand up comedy show featuring various comedians each episode. As an added touch to make the network more like a televised radio station, the early years of the network featured jingles in their bumpers produced by JAM Creative Productions in Dallas, who had previously made jingles for radio stations worldwide.
The format left room for occasional ad-libs by the VJ, a godsend for emcees such as Imus and O'Donnell. In true Imus style, he used a 1985 segment of his VH-1 show to jokingly call smooth-jazz icon Sade Adu a "grape" for her oval-shaped head.
VH1 catered to adult top 40, including musicians such as Ace of Base
, Melissa Etheridge
, Sheryl Crow
, and other slightly more rock
-oriented popular music than what it had originally played, though AC favorites such as [Des'ree]], Elton John
, Janet Jackson
, Céline Dion
, and heavy video play in 1994, as well.
Typical of VH1's early programming was New Visions
, a series which featured videos and in-studio performances by smooth jazz
and New Age
bands and performers, including Spyro Gyra
, Andy Narell
, Mark Isham
. At first many different musicians guest-hosted the program, but eventually musician/songwriter Ben Sidran
established himself as permanent host.
VH1: Music First (1994-2003)
In December 1994
, VH1 rebranded itself as VH1: Music First
, following a ratings decline in the early 1990s. By 1996
, VH1 was heading down the same path as its sister channel, MTV, choosing to focus more on music-related shows than on music videos. Additionally, the network began to expand its playlist of music videos to include more rock and rap music. Old episodes of American Bandstand
could regularly be seen on the channel. By that time, the channel's ratings
were beginning to fall.
As part of VH-1's rebranding as "VH1: Music First" in 1994
, the channel launched a new series, the VH1 Top 10 Countdown
, that counted down the top ten music videos played on VH1 each week. A combination of record sales, radio airplay, video spins, message board
posts, and conventional mail
would decide the order of the countdown. A rotating cast of VJs
picked up hosting duties for the show over the years. The series expanded from ten to twenty music videos, becoming the VH1 Top 20 Video Countdown
, in 1999
. VH1 Top 20 Countdown is premiered every Saturday morning at 9:00 and also shown on Sunday and Tuesday at 8:00 during the same week.
Things changed very drastically for VH1 in the fall of 1996, with the premiere of Pop-Up Video
, a very successful and popular series which showed highlights of artist's careers inside a bubble like what would be in a bubble bath.
Behind the Music
In August 1997
, VH1 again hit it big with the premiere of the first of the network's flagship shows, Behind the Music
. The hourlong show features interviews and biographies of some of popular music's biggest stars qualified to be profiled on the series. The premiere episode featured Milli Vanilli
. Episodes have ranged from Aaliyah
, as well as others such as Meat Loaf
, MC Hammer
, Fleetwood Mac
, "Weird Al" Yankovic
, Britney Spears
, and Eminem
, with more episodes being produced periodically. By the late 1990s, the show began to run out of artists to profile, leading to the short-lived BTM2
program, half-hour looks into bands and artists whose popularity was rising, but not yet at its peak.
Shortly after, VH1 created a companion series, Legends
(originally sponsored by AT&T
), profiling artists who have made a more significant contribution to music history to qualify as "Legends" (that is, those artists who do not fit in the category of Behind the Music
biographies). The artists profiled so far have included AC/DC
, The Bee Gees
, Carman (singer)
, Johnny Cash
, Eric Clapton
, George Clinton
, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
, The Doors
, Aretha Franklin
, Marvin Gaye
, Jimi Hendrix
, Led Zeppelin
, Pink Floyd
, Judas Priest
, Bruce Springsteen
, Neil Young
, The Who
, Michael Jackson
Save the Music Foundation
During its "Music First" days, VH1 created the Save The Music Foundation
, which served to preserve and enhance music education programs in local schools. The VH1 Save the Music foundation was established in 1997
and purchased new musical instruments to restore music education programs that have been cut due to budget reductions in the past or to save programs at risk of elimination due to lack of instruments. The project was the brain child of VH1 President John Sykes and was developed by Bob Morrison who was the foundation's first CEO. The Foundation also conducted awareness campaigns, musical instrument drives and fundraising events. VH1 Save The Music Foundation celebrated its 10 year anniversary in September 2007.
, VH1 debuted the first annual VH1 Divas
concert and featured the "divas" Aretha Franklin
, Céline Dion
, Shania Twain
, Gloria Estefan
and Mariah Carey
, and the "special guest" Carole King
. Other hugely successful shows were produced in the year after, in 1999 featuring "divas
" Whitney Houston
, Tina Turner
, LeAnn Rimes
, Mary J. Blige
, Faith Hill
, Chaka Khan
, Elton John
, and Brandy
. It became a huge success and was featured in the following years starring Diana Ross
, Donna Summer
, Destiny's Child
, Dixie Chicks
, Jessica Simpson
were also featured as divas in the concert. Some different artists, such as Mariah Carey
, Whitney Houston
, Aretha Franklin
, Celine Dion
and Faith Hill
featured two VH1 concerts.
Movies That Rock
In 1999, VH1 aired its first original movie, a bio-pic on Sweetwater. Their third original movie (which aired in 2000), Two of Us, focused on a fictional meeting between John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Over the next three years, they made over a dozen movies, including bio-pics on Ricky Nelson, M.C. Hammer, The Monkees, Meat Loaf, and Def Leppard.
VH1 continues to air "Movies That Rock" on a regular basis, expanding to include movies not produced by VH1. Typically, these movies air on weekday afternoons and on weekends. The subject matter remains mostly focused on music and musicians, though it recently aired the Looney Tunes movie "Space Jam" which deals with sports.
In the late 1990s, VH1 continued to get more diverse and teen-based with its music selection, and with that, the network updated its 1994 "Big 1" logo. Various late-night rock shows have been shown on VH1, featuring alternative rock and metal videos from the 1980s and 1990s. VH1 eventually warmed up to harder rock acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Foo Fighters, and Metallica, and their new videos are generally added into VH1's playlist right away.
By the early 2000s, VH1 even began to play mainstream rap musicians. The latest videos by Eminem, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and Missy Elliott began to be shown in VH1's rotation and even started to crop up on VH1's top 20 countdown, as of late 2002. VH1 also plays music from Latin artists such as Ricky Martin, Marc Anthony, Enrique Iglesias, Thalia and Shakira.
Other past trends
was the title under which VH1 aired various music documentaries, both those produced by VH1 and those produced by third-parties. Such documentary series produced by VH1 include And Ya' Don't Stop
, a four-part series on the history of hip-hop, Heavy: The Story of Metal
, and The Drug Years
, which tells the story of various drug cultures that changed America. Films produced by other studios have also been aired as rockDocs
, including Woodstock
, Madonna: Truth or Dare
, Tupac: Resurrection
, Metal: A Headbanger's Journey
, Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That!
, a documentary on the Beastie Boys
and most recently Last Days of Left Eye
which documented the last month of Lisa Lopes
's life from the band TLC and N.W.A.: The World's Most Dangerous Group
, which chronicled the rise and fall of N.W.A. The documentary was narrated by Chris Rock
VH1 endured criticism for having a show, Music Behind Bars, that focuses on musicians who are in jail. Critics thought that prisoners, mainly those convicted of murder, should not be entitled to any exposure.
The channel aired Where Are They Now? from 1999 to 2002. It featured past celebrities and updated on their current professional and personal status. Each episode was dedicated to another genre (from kid stars to stars of Aaron Spelling's notable productions to controversial news figures).
Current era of VH1 (2003-present)
, the network changed its focus again, dropping "Music First" from its name, and introducing their new and current box logo. Having saturated its Behind The Music
series (and spinoff BTM2
, a 30-minute version that told the stories of current chart-toppers), gotten past the point of showing music videos on a regular basis, and had a 35% ratings decline over the past several years, the network began to target the pop culture nostalgia market just like its sister MTV. The network primarily plays reality shows now.
I Love the... series
The shift began in late 2002
, with the success of the I Love the '80s
10-part series. I Love the
-show continued with I Love the '70s
(when the network's new logo was introduced), based on the BBC 2000
series of the same name. Eventually, VH1 caught lightning in a bottle several times more with I Love the 80s Strikes Back, I Love the '90s,
and I Love the '90s: Part Deux
. More recently, VH1 premiered I Love the '80s 3-D
and I Love the '70s: Volume 2
, along with the non-decade-based I Love the Holidays
and I Love Toys
The format of these shows (various entertainers giving their takes or opinions on popular culture) has been repeated for the weekly program Best Week Ever. In a sketch on FOX's MADtv envisioning an as-yet fictitious "I Love the 00's" show, VH1 was referred to as "the bitter comics ragging on real celebrities" network.
Life imitated art on June 22nd when VH1 premiered 'I Love the New Millennium"' focusing on the years 2000-2007.
The Greatest series
VH1 also produces its The Greatest
series in which a similar format is used to countdown lists like "The 50 Sexiest Video Moments", "100 Greatest Songs of Rock 'N' Roll", "100 Greatest Songs from the Past 25 Years", "100 Greatest One-hit Wonders", and "100 Greatest Kid Stars". In 2001
, Mark McGrath
hosted VH1's miniseries "100 Most Shocking Moments in Rock 'N' Roll", which compiled a list of the moments in music history that changed its course and shook its foundations. It recently premiered the "100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs".
40 Most Awesomely Bad
, VH1 began this mini-series category with "50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs...Ever". Additional series in this group include "40 Most Awesomely Bad Dirrty Songs...Ever, ,"40 Most Awesomely Bad Break-up Songs...Ever, "40 Most Awesomely Bad #1 Songs...Ever, "40 Most Awesomely Bad Metal Songs...Ever, and "40 Most Awesomely Bad Love Songs.
VH1 also touts its Celebreality
programming block of reality shows featuring minor celebrities, anchored by The Surreal Life
, which mimics MTV
's The Real World
, instead placing minor celebrities from the past into a living environment. The Celebreality block has also aired shows such as:
- Hogan Knows Best, Hulk Hogan's reality show
- Celebrity Fit Club, a show where marginal-at-best celebrities get in shape
- My Fair Brady, another spin-off from The Surreal Life, which follows the relationship of Christopher Knight, who played Peter Brady on The Brady Bunch, and Adrianne Curry, who won the first season of America's Next Top Model
- Breaking Bonaduce, which covers the therapy and life of Danny Bonaduce
- Celebrity Paranormal Project, in which minor celebrities are placed in haunted locations to explore and perform tasks
- Strange Love, a program spun off from The Surreal Life, following the relationship between Brigitte Nielsen and Flavor Flav
- Flavor of Love, a show spun off from Strange Love, where Flavor Flav, "hype man" of the hip hop group Public Enemy picks a lover out of multiple women
- I Love New York,Season 1 and Season 2 Flavor of love Runner-up Tiffany "New York" Pollard goes on her own quest for love
- Flavor of Love Girls: Charm School,is a spin-off of Flavor of Love
- Rock of Love with Bret Michaels, frontman of the rock band Poison, which follows the same Bachelor-esque guidelines as Flavor of Love
- Rock of Love Girls: Charm School 2, is a spin-off of Rock of Love with Bret Michaels
- I Love Money, is a spin-off of Flavor of Love, I Love New York, and Rock of Love with Bret Michaels
- New York Goes to Hollywood, is a Spin-off of I Love New York
- Glam God with Vivica A. Fox, is a new reality show with red carpet diva Vivica A. Fox
- The Cho Show,A Reality Sitcom Following the antics of comedian Margret Cho.
- Ego Trips White Rapper,A reality contest hosted by MC Search featuring 10 wannabe white rappers competing for 100,000 dollars
- Ego Trips Miss Rap Supreme,Another reality contest hosted by MC Search giving 10 Female rappers the chance to compete for 100,000 dollars.
- The Salt-n-Pepa Show, A Reality Series Following the 90's Rap Duo *Salt-n-Pepa as they learn to co-exist together years after they've split apart
Hip-Hop and Rock Honors
Since 2004, VH1 has showed their appreciation for hip-hop and rock music by honoring pioneers and movements. Hip-hop musicians honored include Eazy-E
, LL Cool J
, The Notorious B.I.G.
, and Public Enemy
. All of the shows have been taped in the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City. On May 25, 2006, Queen
, Judas Priest
, Def Leppard
, and Kiss
were the inaugural inductees into the VH1 Rock Honors
in Las Vegas. The ceremony aired on VH1 six days later. In 2007, ZZ Top
and Ozzy Osbourne
were inducted into the VH1 Rock Honors. And in 2008 the band The Who becomes inductees in the VH-1 Rock Honors.
Other current trends
On July 1
, VH1 and MHD, the high-definition
music channel of MTV
(now called Palladia
), simulcast live the entire Concert for Diana
from London, England
, on the birthday of Princess Diana
, Princess of Wales
Although VH1 has drastically reduced its emphasis on music, it does continue to play music videos (just like its sister network, MTV) from 3 a.m. until 10 a.m. ET. The overnight block was called Insomniac Music Theater until August 2005, when it was renamed Nocturnal State.
Sister channels in the U.S.
Like MTV and Nickelodeon before them, VH1 also launched spinoff digital networks as part of The Suite From MTV
. Initially, four VH1 spinoff networks were formed. Others later joined the staple, including:
- VH1 Classic: Primarily classic rock music videos, movies, and concert footage.
- VH1 MegaHits: A channel which played mostly top 40 adult contemporary videos from throughout VH1's history, from the 80's to the early years of the 21st Century. Due to low viewership, the network was discontinued. The satellite space was utilized by corporate parent MTV Networks to launch Logo, a general entertainment network targeted at the gay and lesbian community. Logo airs two music video-based programs, NewNowNext Music and ''The Click List: Top 10 Videos.
- VH1 Soul: Classic and neo-soul music videos from yesterday and today.
- VH1 Uno: A Spanish language channel which mostly consisted of music videos of Latin pop, rock, and traditional ballads, tropical, salsa and merengue music. Discontinued February 2, 2008 by MTV Networks to expand normal distribution of mtvU beyond college campuses .
VH1's online destination, VH1.com
, launched in the 1990s. In the 2000s, VH1 created VSPOT
, a broadband video channel that followed the model of MTV Overdrive
, containing the shows aired by VH1 and music videos
was renamed to Video.VH1.com
in late 2007.
VH1 around the world
As with other MTV channels, MTV Networks broadcasts international versions of VH1:
- VH1 Australia: Since March (April for Optus customers) 2004, VH1 has been available in Australia on Foxtel, Optus Television and Austar. It is also available on the SelecTv pay tv platform.
- VH1 Brazil: The Portuguese-language version of VH1 was launched in Brazil on November 21st 2005. However, VH1 Soul had been available to digital cable subscribers since 2004. In 2007 VH1 Soul stopped being available in Brazil.
- VH1 Denmark: The Danish version of VH1 was launched in Denmark on March 15 2008.
- VH1 Europe: VH1 Europe is the VH1 channel broadcast in the European continent as well as Northern Africa, South Africa and the middle-east.
- VH1 Export: VH1 Export is the technical name used for the version of VH1 European available in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Levant territories broadcasting via satellite, exclusively from the Showtime Arabia pay-TV network. In Africa (on DStv) and Thailand, on UBC 33. The channel is exactly the same as VH1 European, but with different adverts.
- VH-1 Germany: During the mid-1990s, a German-language version of VH-1 was broadcast, featuring more adult music than MTV, and using the original 1985 US logo. It proved unsuccessful and eventually had to make way for a non-stop music channel aimed at teenagers called MTV2 Pop. However, VH1 hasn't really disappeared from German television, since it's still available in its pan-European version.
- VH1 India: In December 2004, MTV India and Zee-Turner teamed up to bring VH1 to India. In India, VH1 is a 24-hour pay channel that will cater to the 13–35 age group.
- VH1 Indonesia: In Indonesia, VH1 programming also airs on MTV Indonesia at 5 and 7 pm, and on local terrestrial channels such as Jak-TV, Jakarta, STV Bandung, TV Borobudur, Semarang, TATV , Solo, and Makassar TV, Makassar (UHF21) and also a full link channel seen on satellite PALAPA C2.
- VH1 Latin America: On April 1, 2004, VH1 Latin America joined MTV and Nickelodeon Latin America targeting audiences 25–49 years old. Until then, the VH1 main channel available for Latin America was the original US version. The Spanish-language channel is tailored for the market and feature a mix of music and entertainment with local and international-recording artists, as well as original programming.
- VH1 Pakistan:Now on test transmission, Operated by ARY TV Network)
- VH1 Poland: Launched (or rather renamed) on December 1, 2005. The channel is aimed at people in Poland over 25. The channel was formerly known as "MTV Classic" and (especially in its last months) was the same as present VH1, airing the same programs for the same target group.
- VH1 Russia: VH1 Russia launched on December 2, 2005
- VH1 UK: VH1 UK targets 25–44 years old, and has much of the same content as the main US channel. There has been two sister stations in the UK: VH1 Classic and the now axed channel VH2.