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‘Music’ man ankles VH1 for Peacock

Architect for 'Pop Up,' 'Storytellers,' 'Legends'

VH1 programming exec Jeff Gaspin, the man behind “Behind the Music,” is ankling the cabler to take a top-level creative position at NBC.

Gaspin has resigned as exec VP of programming and production for VH1 after a five-year stint that saw the creation of “Behind the Music,” the music docu skein that helped transform the cabler’s brand. He also launched other VH1 original series such as “Pop-Up Video,” “Storytellers” and “Legends,” and oversaw the production of the network’s first slate of original movies.

Gaspin will likely serve as an exec VP at NBC, focusing on programming and reporting to newly minted Peacock entertainment prexy Jeff Zucker; his exact title has yet to be confirmed. At VH1, Gaspin focused on the creation of nontraditional forms of programming and original pics. NBC has shown weakness in both genres in recent years.

While Gaspin declined to confirm what his duties at NBC will be, he said his decision to ankle VH1 was a result of a desire to dabble in programming not related to music.

Beyond ‘Music’

“I’ve had the best five years of my career at VH1, but it was time for me, as corny as this sounds, to go beyond the music,” the exec told Daily Variety Sunday. “I’m a TV guy more than a music guy, and I’ve worked on maybe 60 to 80 different music ideas at VH1. I want to concentrate on the television side of things now more than the music.”

In a memo to top execs of MTV Networks, VH1 prexy John Sykes called Gaspin “the architect of a programming plan that changed VH1 forever,” turning “an ‘also-ran’ musicvideo-based operation to a network respected by audiences and industry alike.”

Demo strategy

During Gaspin’s tenure, VH1 became one of the most profitable niche networks in cable. Although its primetime rating averaged only a 0.5 in cable homes in 2000, putting it in a tie for 26th place among basic-cable networks, Gaspin’s programming strategy kept the focus on young-adult demographics. VH1 performed far better in the demos than in households last year. Among adults 18-49, the network finished 18th in 2000, and with adults 25-54 it was 22nd.

Those demos helped VH1 to harvest big bucks from advertisers, ballooning from $162.9 million in 1999 to $206.9 million in 2000 to a projected $258.6 million in 2001, according to Paul Kagan Associates.

Among the original movies Gaspin shepherded were “A Diva’s Christmas,” with Vanessa Williams, which scored VH1’s best movie numbers ever last Dec. 13, and “Back in Black,” a four-part horror anthology tied to rock ‘n’ roll.

A VH1 spokeswoman says the network will anoint Gaspin’s successor within the next week.

Lauren Zalaznick, senior VP of original programming and production, has the inside track.

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