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VH1 (which originally stood for Video Hits 1) is an American cable television channel that was created in 1985. With then four-year-old MTV's popularity rising drastically among teens, VH1 began with the intention to capitalize off of the success of the music video. However, VH1's aim was to focus on the lighter, softer side of popular music, including such musicians as Elton John, Sting, Diana Ross, Billy Joel, Kenny G, and Anita Baker, in hopes of appealing to people between the ages of 18 and 35, and possibly even older.



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The very first logo of VH-1.
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A updated version on the first logo.
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In 1994, VH1 rebranded itself as VH1: Music First.
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An updated version of the Music First logo in 2000.

VH-1's popularity and clearance (number of cable systems carrying the channel) was minimal until the fledgling network was acquired by Viacom and placed into the MTV Networks stable. In 1994, in a bid to make itself more noticeable, VH-1 started to market itself as the "new VH1: Music First", and dropping the hyphen from its official name. It altered its format slightly from adult contemporary to adult top 40, now including musicians such as Ace of Base, Melissa Etheridge, Sheryl Crow, and other slightly more rock-oriented, popular music than what it had originally played, though lite favorites such as Des'ree, Elton John, Madonna, CÚline Dion, and Mariah Carey still received heavy video play in 1994, as well.

By 1996, VH1 was heading down the same path as its sister station, MTV, choosing to focus more on music-related shows than on actual videos. Old episodes of American Bandstand could regularly be seen on the channel and the channel was reportedly in major risk of going bankrupt because of very poor ratings.

Things changed drastically for VH1 in the fall of 1996, with the premiere of Pop-Up Video, a very successful and popular show which offered tidbits of information as music videos were being played. "Pop-Up" television has gone on to become something of a cultural phenomenon, appearing on episodes of Sabrina The Teenage Witch, Brady Bunch reruns and even a special episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.

In August of 1997, VH1 again hit it big with the premiere of the first of the network's flagship shows, Behind the Music. The show features interviews and biographies of some of popular music's biggest stars qualified to be profiled on the series. The premiere episode featured Milli Vanilli. To date, there are episodes on everyone from Queen Latifah to MC Hammer to Fleetwood Mac to TLC to "Weird Al" Yankovic, and more episodes are being produced continually.

Shortly after, VH1 created a companion series, Legends (originally sponsored by AT&T), profiling artists who have made a more significant contribution to music history to qualify as "Legends" (that is, those artists who do not fit in the category of Behind the Music biographies). The artists profiled so far have included Marvin Gaye, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, The Doors, Neil Young, Johnny Cash, Jimi Hendrix, Queen, Pink Floyd, The Bee Gees, and U2.

Oddly enough, there have been rare instances where artists have been profiled on both Behind The Music and Legends. These artists have been Elton John, Tina Turner, and John Lennon.

In 1998, VH1 debuted the first annual "VH1 Divas" concert. The original was live, and featured the "divas" CÚline Dion, Shania Twain, Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, and Aretha Franklin, and the "special guest" Carole King. The concert was a huge success and others followed featuring "divas" including Whitney Houston, Cher, Donna Summer, LeAnn Rimes, Mary J. Blige, Diana Ross, and Faith Hill. Elton John was also featured as a "diva" in one concert.

In the late 1990s VH1 continued to get more diverse and teen-based with its music selection. Various late-night rock shows have been shown on VH1, featuring alternative rock and metal videos from the 1980s and 1990s. VH1 eventually warmed up to harder rock acts such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, the Foo Fighters, and Metallica, and their new videos are generally added into VH1's playlist right away.

By the early 2000s, VH1 even began to play mainstream rap musicians. The latest videos by Eminem, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and Missy Elliott began to be shown in VH1's rotation and even started to crop up on VH1's top 20 countdown, as of early 2003.

During its "Music First" days, VH1 was involved in a foundation that served to preserve and enhance music education programs in local schools. The foundation, VH1 Save The Music, purchased new musical instruments to restore music education programs that have been cut due to budget reductions in the past or to save programs at risk of elimination due to lack of instruments. The Foundation also conducted awareness campaigns, musical instrument drives and fundraising events. It still exists as of 2005, but with a much lower profile.

In 2003, the network changed its focus again. Having saturated its Behind The Music series (and spinoff BTM2, a 30-minute version that told the stories of current chart-toppers) and gotten past the point of showing music videos on a regular basis, the network began to target the pop culture nostalgia market. The shift began with the massive success of the I Love the 80s 10-part series in late 2002 (based on the BBC series of the same name [1] (http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/ilove/)). This spawned I Love the 70s, which was not nearly as successful. Eventually, VH1 caught lightning in a bottle several times more with I Love the 80s Strikes Back, I Love the 90s, and I Love the 90s: Part Deux. The format (various entertainers giving their takes or opinions on popular culture) has been repeated for the weekly program Best Week Ever.

Having run out of decades, VH1 now produces its "The Greatest" series, in which a similar format is used to count down lists like The 50 Sexiest Video Moments, 100 Greatest Songs from the Past 25 Years, and 100 Greatest Kid Stars. VH1 also touts its "CelebReality" programming block of reality shows featuring B- and C-list celebrities, anchored by The Surreal Life, which mimics MTV's The Real World, instead placing minor celebrities from the past into a living environment.

Sister Channels

VH1 has four sister channels, VH1 Classic, VH1 Country, VH1 Soul and VH1 Mega Hits which feature music videos and concert footage from Classic Rock, Country music, Soul music and hits of the 1990s and 2000s respectively.

On June 30th, 2005, VH1 Mega Hits will be replaced by the LOGO_channel, Viacom's channel targeted toward the Gay & Lesbian community.

International Channels

VH1 Australia

Since March (April for OPTUS customers) 2004 VH1 has been available in Australia on Foxtel, Optus Television and Austar.

VH1 Brazil

Since 2004, VH1 Soul also became available for Brazilians with digital cable system. Currently, it's the only VH1 channel, but there are also plans to include the main VH1.

VH-1 Europe

Broadcasts from London to continental Europe. Mainly music videos with some documentaries, with most strands of programming identical to VH-1 UK, but with different schedules and advertisements. VH-1 Classic Europe is also available to many viewers and is, at present, entirely devoid of advertisements, with round-the-clock music videos.

VH1 India

In December 2004, MTV India and Zee-Turner teamed up to bring VH1 to India. In India, VH1 will be a commercial-free 24-hour pay channel that will cater to the 16-44 age group.

VH1 Latin America

In 2004, VH1 Latin America joined MTV and Nickelodeon Latin America targeting 25-49 year olds. The Spanish-language channel is tailored for the market and feature a mix of music and entertainment with local and international-recording artists, as well as original programming.

VH1 Latin America was launched in the 2nd quarter of 2004 with its initial distribution in Mexico via pay TV. The network is also to be made available throughout Latin America with additional distribution to be announced.


Targeting 25-44 year olds, VH1 UK is mature, sophisticated and totally stylish for viewers who still feel young and want to keep in-touch with what's happening on the music scene today. The music they play consists of music from the 70's right through to today. Most of their proogramming is taken from VH1 USA, and the channel has many 'Top 20' and 'Top 40' countdowns. VH2 is its sister channel playing the very best in rock and guitar-based music. VH1 Classic plays all time greats from the 60s to the 90s.

VH1 Export is a version of VH1 UK available in the Middle East, Africa and Thailand.

Popular Vh1 Programs

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