VH1 Breaks From MTV and Joins BET Media Group in CEO Bob Bakish’s Latest Paramount Shuffle
Paramount is moving oversight of VH1 over to the BET Media Group. That means the network behind the “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and “Love and Hip Hop” franchises, among others, will now fall under the oversight of BET president/CEO Scott Mills and his team.
Paramount president/CEO Bob Bakish made the announcement on Wednesday in a memo to staffers. The shift means that VH1 is no longer a sister network to MTV, which it has been since the channel’s launch in 1985 (as “Video Hits One”). Long a part of the MTV Networks family, VH1 began as an adult contemporary music video channel before eventually shifting to reality fare.
Chris McCarthy had previously held oversight of VH1 as president and CEO of Paramount Media Networks, but he recently gained control of Showtime Networks, prompting Bakish to reassess some of the company’s structure. MTV Entertainment Studios, under McCarthy and Nina L. Diaz, will continue to produce several of VH1’s existing shows for the network, Bakish said in his memo.
VH1 has found success in recent years with hits that have appealed to a Black audience, including “Basketball Wives,” “Black Ink Crew,” “Love & Hip Hop” and the “Dear Mama” specials. The network has also thrived via signature franchise “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
In moving to the BET Media Group, VH1 will now operate alongside BET, BET+, BET Studios, BET Her and BET Digital under Mills, who was promoted to CEO last year at this time. Meanwhile, McCarthy has his hands full after recently taking over Showtime Networks last month, following last month’s exit of David Nevins. Also as part of that transition, BET (and Mills) now reports to George Cheeks, the president and CEO of CBS.
Here is Bakish’s latest memo detailing the change:
As we take further steps to accelerate the transformation of our business and maximize the full strength of Paramount, I’m excited to share that VH1 will move into the BET Media Group, which includes BET, BET+, BET Studios and BET Digital. This strategic alignment will ensure that VH1 − a leader in multi-cultural programming and the second largest U.S. cable network for Black viewership − is best positioned for future success as a key part of the powerful BET ecosystem under the leadership of Scott Mills. Scott and his team continue to drive the evolution and growth of BET by building an interconnected set of leading platforms – linear, streaming, digital and studios – centered around the Black Community, Black Culture and Content. Their ability to create hit programming and experiences, invest in new talent and storytellers, leverage our capabilities in streaming and original production, and expand and deepen relationships with key commercial partners make them ideally suited to take on this brand and business. I’d also like to recognize the MTV Entertainment Studios team under the leadership of Chris McCarthy and Nina L. Diaz, who, for the past five years, have rebuilt the VH1 brand and produced powerful hit franchises from “Black Ink Crew” and “Love & Hip Hop” to “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” Their work has helped VH1 score nearly 40 Emmy Awards while establishing it as an industry champion in driving diversity both in front of the camera and behind the screens. As Chris and his team continue to focus on integrating Showtime and globalizing the Media Networks Group, they’ll also partner with the BET teams to continue producing several of the existing hit shows on VH1. We are working through the details of that transition now and will share updates as we have them. In the meantime, as we look forward to this successful next chapter of VH1, please join me in congratulating Scott and the BET organization, and thanking Chris and the MTV Entertainment team for their ongoing contributions.
Variety's Michael Schneider contributed to this post.