‘Love’ rules at VH1

Huge 18-49 aud savors 'Flavor' finale

In a major milestone, Flavor Flav has captured cable’s 18-49 demo crown.

Sunday’s 90-minute finale of the rapper’s VH1 series “Flavor of Love 2,” the second edition of “The Bachelor”-style skein, drew a staggering 7.5 million viewers and an even more impressive 4.9 million in the key 18-49 demo (3.8 national rating/10 share).

Score makes the 10 p.m. showing the most-watched episode of an original basic-cable series among 18- to 49-year-olds since “The Osbournes” in 2002. Three episodes of “Osbournes” drew more than 5 million in the demo.

Telecast, the most-watched in VH1 history, now outranks, among adults 18-49, episodes of original series on all cablers, including FX, MTV, TBS, TNT and USA. In VH1’s universe, airing posted a 4.6 rating in the category.

For the entire run, however, second season of “Flavor” still runs behind longtime 18-49 leaders including FX’s “Nip/Tuck”; season averaged 2.4 million viewers in 18-49.

Demo ratings also bested such broadcast competition as “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” and “The Nine” for the week. In 18-34, “Flavor” posted an even bigger number (5.0/15), outpacing all broadcast competish on Sunday night except for “Desperate Housewives.”

Finale beat “Flavor’s” first-season ender (5.9 million, 2.8/7 in 18-49) by a big 27% in overall viewership. Episode also more than doubled the season-two premiere (3.3 million total).

MTV Networks Music Group entertainment prexy Brian Graden told Daily Variety that beyond being a monster hit for VH1, “Flavor” has lifted the entire sked. Third-quarter 18-49 ratings show the channel has grown 11% in primetime and 4% in total-day. VH1 now ranks fourth among basic-cable nets in Sunday primetime year-to-date.

“It lifts the entire boat,” he said, citing increases in current stablemates “Celebrity Fit Club” and “Best Week Ever.”

Also noteworthy: Season-ender scored an 18 rating/34 share among African-American adults 18-49, which means one out of every three black viewers watching TV on Sunday night was tuned into VH1. Skein is the top show in the category in its timeslot on broadcast or cable.

At the end of season one, VH1 exec VP of programming/production Michael Hirschorn had attributed the boffo finale to Web-based word of mouth. Graden said the reasoning still applies.

“In the world of digital distribution, we’re living in a forward-it-to-a-friend age. Certain shows lend themselves to that notion, and ‘Flav’ is the perfect example,” Graden continued, pointing out the numerous outrageous moments in the series make them perfect for short-form consumption. (For example, clips of the second-season opener, in which one contestant defecated on Flav’s floor, got attention online and in the media.)

VH1 said that the series was streamed 1.1 million times on Monday (the day after the finale), vaulting the cabler’s broadband site, VSpot, to a new high for a single day and a single show. “Flavor” content is also the most popular offering on VH1 Mobile.

Series is exec produced by Mark Cronin and Cris Abrego, who are behind several of VH1’s hit shows including Flav’s first show on the network, “The Surreal Life.”

“Certainly, it’s the most successful overall deal we have. At this point, they operate as family,” Graden said.

Cronin’s Mindless Entertainment and Abrego’s 51 Pictures produced “Surreal Life” and Flav’s other VH1 series, “Strange Love,” as well as cabler’s upcoming “Celebrity Paranormal Project,” set to premiere Sunday.

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