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VH1 Hones ‘Pop Culture Party’ Brand With Five New Series, Renewal of ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’

VH1 has a busy schedule of new and returning shows unspooling during the rest of the year as the Viacom cabler hones its brand and tries to rev up live viewing of its reality franchises.

VH1 is now billing itself as “the place where pop culture comes to party.” The emphasis is on fun, frothy and pop culture-centric unscripted material.

The original series slate includes a docu-series look at the Las Vegas life of Latin superstar Ricky Martin and “ ‘90s House,” a reality series hosted by Lance Bass that challenges highly wired young contestants to live in a house equipped only with 1990s technology.

Chris McCarthy, president of VH1, MTV and Logo, said the party motif has influenced VH1’s development focus with shows revolving around food (“Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party”), games (“Hip Hop Squares”) and entertainment from “lively and ambitious friends.” “America’s Next Top Model,” “Love and Hip Hop” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” which shifted this year from Logo to VH1, fall into the entertainment category. “Drag Race” has been renewed for a 10th season.

Joining the VH1 rotation in August is “Baller Wives,” a look at a group of Miami-based pro athletes and their wives. “Scared Famous,” to premiere in October, is an effort to tap into the comedy-horror genre with a competition series that promises to send 10 celebrities into a “spooky” mansion to face “chilling challenges” derived from classic horror pics.

“For all of our stars, it’s about celebrating who they are,” McCarthy told Variety. “Today’s pop culture is all about elevating and celebrating. That’s been our sweet spot. We have every color in the rainbow around our shows. That’s been a powerful combination.”

Another big priority that bows June 5 is “Daytime Divas,” a scripted behind-the-scenes look at a daytime talk show based on the roman a clef “Satan’s Sisters” by Star Jones, a former panelist on ABC’s “The View.” The Sony Pictures Television show, which has a 10-episode order, is toplined by Vanessa Williams and Tichina Arnold. McCarthy sees it as in keeping with the theme of embracing pop culture.

“It’s ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ meets daytime talk,” he said. “It plays with all of the drama in daytime TV over the past 30 years.”

VH1 is putting a premium on shows that offer some urgency to watch live, particularly those that generate a high level of second-screen activity. McCarthy wants to see at least 50% of viewership of VH1’s original series coming from live rather than time-shifted on-demand options.

“We look at the social volume minute by minute on our shows,” McCarthy says. “If we’re not creating those moments that reverberate through social (media), we know not enough people are watching us live.”

Heavy social media activity around a live airing indicates that a program is offering “an experience our audience wants to share in,” McCarthy says. “If we’re not doing that then we’re just making shows. We don’t want to do that. We want to make a brand.”

VH1 has been notching steady ratings gains in the past two years under McCarthy’s leadership, an achievement that has been overshadowed by the larger upheaval within the Viacom cable group. “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta” and “Hip Hop Squares” are among cable’s top 10 entertainment programs in the adults 18-49 demographic.

Viacom surprised the industry when it left VH1 out of the list of six “flagship” channels that will receive the bulk of the company’s cable programming and marketing resources. VH1 does not have the same global profile as MTV — which was a determining factor for the flagship designation — but it is in better shape overall than its sibling channels from a U.S. ratings perspective.

Here’s a detailed list of VH1’s new series:

DAYTIME DIVAS (Sony Pictures Television)
June 5, 2017
Every weekday at noon, Maxine (Vanessa Williams), Mo (Tichina Arnold), Heather (Fiona Gubelmann), Kibby (Chloe Bridges), and Nina (Camille Guaty)—hosts of “The Lunch Hour,” the long-running women’s talk show—gather around the table to discuss life, love, politics, and juicy gossip.  But behind the scenes, it’s even juicier — a backstage world filled with power struggles, diva fits, and steamy affairs. Inspired by the book Satan’s Sisters… A Novel of Fiction by Star Jones, television personality, lawyer and journalist.

June 2017
A revealing, never been seen account of one of the most private and guarded global superstars of our time. With more than 85 million albums sold worldwide, 95 platinum records, and sold-out concerts in over 100 countries, Ricky Martin is truly an international icon. The project will draw on his Vegas residence to illustrate his broader, fascinating, and inspiring journey from every pivotal era in his career to the most defining roles of his life.

August 2017
From the sidelines to the social frontlines, this is the world where relationships are complicated and the competition is thick.  All eyes are on these Miami based pro athletes and their wives as they navigate the waters of love, family, business, and balling in the hottest city around.

‘90s HOUSE (Superdelicious)
August 16, 2017
What happens when a super connected cast has to unplug and live in the most rad decade ever?  No smart phones, Wi-Fi or GPS allowed in this house but tons of the flyest fun, fashion and pop culture moments will be rebooted back to reality.   Hosted by Lance Bass and full of cameos from the 90’s most beloved celebrities.

October 2017
The frightening and hilarious tale of ten celebs who have bravely agreed to move into one of the spookiest mansions in America.  Over eight episodes, they face terror and chilling challenges inspired by the iconic movies that make you scream.  In this reality fright fest, ten famous people will move in, but only one will make it out alive.

(Pictured: “Daytime Divas”)

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