VH1 original-programming chief Michael Hirschorn is leaving the network to form his own production company, Ish Entertainment, and he signed a three-show, first-look deal with MTV Networks Music and Logo Group.
VH1, separately, green-lit three new reality contests and promoted two executives to fill the gap.
Hirschorn, who’s forming the company with VH1’s senior vice president of celebrity talent development, Stella Stolper, leaves his slot as the network’s executive VP, original programming, after six years at the channel and a hugely successful period -- 22 straight quarters of year-over-year ratings growth.
Ish, based in New York and Los Angeles, is committed to doing three series with the MTVN Music/Logo Group, which includes MTV, VH1, CMT and Logo, with MTVN giving the company funding and overhead.
VH1, meanwhile, green-lit three new reality contests apart from its Ish deal. One, slated for this summer, will seek to find P. Diddy’s new assistant. The others are ego trip’s Miss Rap Supreme, a girls-only follow-up to rapping competition ego trip’s The (White Rapper Show), slated for April; and Celebracadabra, a competition in which celebrities try to learn and beat each other at magic tricks.
As Hirschorn leaves, the network upped Jeff Olde and Ben Zurier to new senior programming roles -- Olde to executive VP, original programming and production and Zurier to executive VP, program strategy, VH1, VH1 Classic and MHD.
Olde, last senior VP, production and programming, will now oversee VH1’s original programming coming out of the East and West coasts and its music series and talent development. He has worked closely with 51 Minds, the production company that’s brought VH1 some of its biggest hits, including I Love New York and Flavor of Love. He’s also helped to develop and produce other series, such as Breaking Bonaduce and Scott Baio Is 45 … And Single.
Zurier, with VH1 since 2001 after stints at Comedy Central, CBS TV Stations and Rainbow Media, will expand his programming strategy duties to include VH1’s video-on-demand and other digital properties, as well as VH1 Classic and MHD, MTVN’s HD channel.
Hirschorn had a storied career in journalism before jumping to TV, most notably including editor in chief stints at Inside.com and Spin magazine and editor roles at New York and Esquire.
“The word ‘brilliant’ should be reserved for very special examples … like Michael Hirschorn,” MTVN Music Group president of entertainment Brian Graden said in a statement. “He possesses one of the fastest, most vibrant minds I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness working. Where some fail to even master a single medium, Michael went from being a magazine editor to mastering network-TV development in far less than a lifetime. An unparalleled listener, it must be Michael’s ability to take it all in that allows him to unerringly output universally appealing content that speaks so perfectly to our collective culture.”
Hirschorn said Graden was supportive of his move in a statement of his own.
“I owe to Brian most of what I understand about TV, so I’m thrilled that I will be able to continue working with and learning from him in this new venture, while gaining the opportunity to deliver shows to a wider range of networks,” he said. “And I’m eager to continue my relationship, albeit in a new form, with my successor, Jeff Olde, who has been instrumental in delivering so many of VH1’s hits over the past five years.”
Chris Choun, VH1’s VP, production management/executive in charge of production from 2001-05, will be Ish’s head of production.