Viacom-owned VH1 has picked up the entire library of ABC's The Bachelor and The Bachelorette—including one featuring DeAnna Pappas that premieres on ABC May 19—with plans to run the shows in marathon blocks.
VH1 will debut its new acquisition in a week of marathons. Starting June 1, VH1 will air season one of The Bachelor all day long. The marathons will continue through June 7. After that, Bachelor overdoses will air on selected Saturdays and, well, whenever.
“Opportunistically, these shows play better as marathons than as any other possible formation,” says Ben Zurier, VH1's executive VP of programming strategy. “It's an awful lot to ask of an audience to play it out as a strip. It's a challenge for cable networks to do that with any type of programming. We'll schedule marathons of the series so that we let the inventory rest, but frequently enough that we get our money out of this acquisition.”
Zurier believes that adding an established off-network show like The Bachelor to VH1's lineup benefits the series, as well as VH1 and ABC.
The season finale of The Bachelor's 12th edition, which aired May 12, attracted nearly 10 million viewers and scored a 3.2 rating/8 share among adults 18-49, coming in second only to CBS' CSI: Miami. That's a big comedown from the show's heyday when the season-two finale attracted more than 25 million viewers and an 11.9/28 among adults 18-49, but still a respectable performance for an aging franchise.
“Schedule-wise, when you marathon a show and sprinkle it into your schedule, you can brand it as part of your network instead of letting it brand you, which is what happens with a strip. The Bachelor will take on an even hipper sheen by being part of the VH1 lineup than it had merely as an ABC program,” Zurier says.
VH1 has been a cable leader in acquiring off-net unscripted programs, starting with The CW's America's Next Top Model in 2004. “I like to think that VH1 has been the network that has demonstrated that off-network reality shows can be successful,” Zurier says.
VH1 has acquired off-net shows such as The CW's Beauty and the Geek, CBS' Rock Star and NBC's Tommy Lee Goes to College.
“It's really a matter of the right show going to the right network at the right time for the right audience,” Zurier says. Established reality franchises such as Flavor of Love, Rock of Love With Bret Michaels, Scott Baio Is 46...and Pregnant, Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew and Best Week Ever helped the network break into basic cable's top 10 in March. Adding popular, well-branded off-net reality shows to that mix makes sense to VH1's programmers.
Still, at base VH1 is a network that is “focused on originals,” Zurier says. “Our acquisitions are always focused on complementing our originals. They drive viewers to our original franchises and ensure that people see our promos.”
VH1 has several original programs in the development pipeline. Baio, who has become a staple of VH1's reality programming, will co-executive-produce a yet-to-be-titled show featuring eight of the most famous male teen idols of the 1980s and '90s looking to reignite their careers. That show will premiere in winter 2009.
It's also ordered up a second season of The Pick-Up Artist, featuring self-proclaimed ladies' man Mystery, which will debut later this year; Glam God With Vivica A. Fox, which seeks the next great celebrity stylist and will premiere this summer; Luke's World, starring 2Live Crew's Luther Campbell; New York Goes to Hollywood, featuring Flavor of Love favorite Tiffany “New York” Pollard; and Brooke Hogan Knows Best, which follows Hulk Hogan's daughter as she ventures out on her own.