April 20, 2010 / 12:25 AM / 8 years ago

VH1 tones down sleaze factor

DENVER (Billboard) - As it begins its annual courtship ritual with the advertising community, VH1’s deportment is decidedly more understated than it has been in years past.

Gone are the tawdry trappings of “Flavor of Love” and its innumerable libidinous offspring. Stalled out at a rest stop, the “Rock of Love” bus may have taken its last venereal voyage. The “Tool Academy” has lost its accreditation.

While VH1 hasn’t fallen out of love with irreverence, it’s also no longer in the business of facilitating glam-rocker Bret Michaels’ sexual conquests. Instead, the Viacom-owned network is lining up a slate of unscripted series designed to reflect the concerns of its core demographic more faithfully.

“As much as they’ve enjoyed the ‘Love’ franchise, our audience was getting a little fatigued by all those manufactured reality shows,” said Tom Calderone, president, VH1. “They want more authenticity in their reality, which isn’t to say that it can’t be comedic and light.”

To that end, VH1 is unveiling the most comprehensive lineup of original programing in its 25-year history. Before the year is out, the network will introduce 44 new series, each of which will align with one of three genres: music, celebrity and “real life stories.”

Upcoming series launches include “You’re Cut Off!” (June 14), a rehab of sorts for nine spoiled party girls; and “Money Hungry” (summer), a weight-loss competition in which contestants risk losing $10,000 of their own cash if they don’t reduce their caloric intake.

Music-themed programing will account for 40% of VH1’s overall schedule. In conjunction with the release of her fourth studio album, “Bionic,” the network on June 13 will fete Christina Aguilera with all-new episodes of “Behind the Music” and “Storytellers.”

The new programing reflects VH1’s commitment to its “Gen Mix” audience, a demo composed of younger Gen Xers and older Millennials. Ranging between 25 and 34 years of age, the Gen Mix crowd is particularly attuned to celebrity -- so much so that endorsements from actors and musicians are as influential as recommendations from friends and family.

On April 11, VH1 offered a preview of its more sober new celeb/music direction, premiering “What Chilli Wants,” starring 39-year-old TLC singer Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas; the practically demure launch drew 1.63 million viewers.

“A lot of their new stuff should be an easier fit,” said one national TV buyer who had steered clear from some of the more outrageous VH1 fare. “But we don’t want to lose sight of (ratings) deliveries, either.”

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