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Once hot, now not: Reinventing VH1

Marketing vet Christina Norman tapped to start turning the channel around as its prime time viewing dips by 40% 4/21/2002 08:00:00 PM Eastern

The cavalry is starting to arrive to reinvent VH1. One month after adding the sagging music net to her watch, MTV Networks Music Group President Judy McGrath tapped 11-year MTV marketing vet Christina Norman to be her deputy.

Norman will oversee VH1's daily operations, as well as marketing and promotions. McGrath is expected to bring on another high-level exec to head programming. MTV programming whiz Brian Graden, MTV president of entertainment, has surfaced as a likely candidate.

Most recently MTV's senior VP of marketing and on-air promotions, Norman is VH1's first-ever executive VP and GM. In March, former VH1 and CMT President John Sykes departed to head Viacom's Infinity Radio and McGrath took on oversight for the two channels. (CMT already had GM Brian Phillips in place.)

VH1's new leadership inherits a channel aching for a hit. The net's breakout show Behind the Music
is aging, and new programming isn't hitting the mark. "Television goes in cycles," said Norman, who joined MTV as a product manager in 1991. "VH1 is in a cycle that's raised issues that need to be addressed."

Make that a deep-down cycle. Prime time ratings were off 40% in the first quarter to a 0.3. Once-loyal viewers are fleeing; delivery among adults 18-49 and 25-54 was down about 30% in the first quarter.

Last fall, VH1 programmers hyped a new slate of originals, including variety show Late World with Zach. But so far, nothing is helping ratings. Sister net MTV, meanwhile, looked rejuvenated, thanks partly to smash The Osbournes
and highly-rated Real World XI.
While at MTV, Norman directed The Osbournes
promotional campaign. She says her first priority will be to "look at every time in the schedule and maximize every slot." Norman cautions change will come slowly, perhaps over the next year.

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