Whereas MTV was focusing on teenagers and young adults, VH1 was initially its older-skewing counterpart and came into being primarily to compete with Turner Broadcasting's Cable Music Channel (which shut down before VH1 signed on, and wound up being replaced with it). Thus, VH1 became the home of adult contemporary artists like Kenny G, Mariah Carey, Michael Bolton, Anita Baker, et cetera, playing their videos on infinite loop, which had all of the appeal of your average Lite FM station. To further drive the similarities home, radio jingle company JAM Creative Productions would produce much the channel's ID music until the early '90s rolled around and their early VJ lineup consisted of several notable radio personalities of the time such as Don Imus and Scott Shannon. They even had a morning show, Hits, News and Weather which interspersed news updates (produced by the All-News Channel, a JV network of Viacom and Hubbard Communications, which also produced news updates for another Viacom network, Showtime) amongst music videos.
In The '90s, like MTV, it started moving away from music videos, but still played lots of them, and even dipped into videos, music shows, and films from The '60s and The '70s. By the middle of the decade, it started skewing a bit younger, courting recently lapsed MTV viewers among its new audience, with a somewhat more hip playlist, more or less catching up by the end of the decade when metal/hard rock started finding a home via dedicated blocks and specials. Stars of the era included Jewel, Natalie Merchant, and most notoriously Hootie & the Blowfish. Notable series during this period were Pop Up Video, which put visual commentary on a music video, explaining various lyrics and other things, and Behind the Music, which gave fans a look into the personal lives of many popular and long-standing musicians most of the time, though it also examined music-related events of a particular year in some episodes. A spinoff, Behind the Music 2, focused on groups that hadn't been around long enough to warrant an hour-long episode.
At the Turn of the Millennium, the channel's focus turned to general pop culture—in particular, the I Love the... series was extremely popular, covering the 1980s thrice, and the 1970s, the 1990s, and the 2000s twice! From this success, the channel started to focus on pop culture-related reality shows. Unlike MTV's focus on teen culture, VH1 focuses on washed-up celebrities, giving such figures as Hulk Hogan, Danny Bonaduce, Flavor Flav, and Christopher Knight a second swing at stardom. It usually works... the season finale of Flavor of Love, Flavor Flav's show, attracted 6 million viewers.
In The New '10s, the network's focus seems to be the budding entertainment center of Atlanta, with several programs revolving around music (the Love and Hip Hop franchise) or sports and entertainment figures' wives (Basketball Wives and Baseball Wives). The network has also had a couple of original dramatic series and even a few made-for-TV movies, usually of the Biopic genre. By November 2015, VH1 stopped airing music video blocks altogether, effectively relegating videos to interstitial programming.
Like MTV, VH1 is not what it once was but it's still popular. So much so that, even though VH1 was not one of Viacom's six core brands (MTV, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., BET, Comedy Central, and Paramount), it was still a part of their 2017 restructuring plan. While scripted dramas Hit the Floor and The Breaks were shuffled over to BET, LOGO's reality competition series, RuPaul's Drag Race, had its premieres moved to VH1.
VH1 used to have a suite of channels, but those channels eventually ended up under new management and renamed:
- VH1 Country — Now known as CMT Music (formerly CMT Pure Country), which primarily focuses on videos, as does...
- VH1 Soul — Now known as BET Soul, Specializes in soul and R&B videos from The '80s onward.
- VH1 Mega Hits — A defunct channel which mainly ran the format VH1 had at the beginning, acting as a 24/7 video network playing '80's, '90's and current music. Ratings were never compelling, so Viacom closed down the channel in the summer of 2005 and used their satellite space to launch LOGO.
- VH1 Classic — Its format was similar to its parent channel's lineup in the second half of The '90s — daytime music video blocks featuring videos from The '70s through The '90s, reruns of their various documentary shows (Behind the Music even gets some of its episodes updated as Behind the Music Remastered), lots of vintage concerts and (usually) music-themed movies, plus a few comedy reruns (Married... with Children is their favorite) in non-prime time hours. It also has a growing lineup of original shows and specials, primarily focused on Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. Tellingly, they were the one channel in the MTV family to acknowledge the parent channel's 30th anniversary in 2011 by programming a whole weekend of classic segments and promos. History would repeat itself five years later when the network announced it would be retooled into "MTV Classic" starting August 1, 2016, with its lineup consisting mainly of programming from the 1990s to the early 2000s.
Shows with pages on TV Tropes:
- America's Next Top Model (2016-18, moved from The CW)
- Behind the Music (1997-2014)
- Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (2008, 2010-12)
- Charm School (2007-09)
- Flavor of Love (2006, 2008)
- Hey Joel (2003)
- Hindsight (2015)
- I Love Money (2008-10)
- I Love New York (2007-08)
- Pop Up Video (1996-2002, 2011-12)
- Rock of Love (2007-09)
- RuPaul's Drag Race (2017-present, moved from LOGO)
- Scream Queens (2008, 2010)
- Scream: Resurrection (2019, a Retool of the MTV series)
- The Surreal Life (2004-06, moved from The WB)
- That Metal Show (2008-15, aired on VH1 Classic)