Race and Ratings: VH1's Latest Launches Show What's Working — and What's Not

VH1 Summer Ratings Love and Hip Hop Atlanta - H 2014
Courtesy of VH1

VH1 Summer Ratings Love and Hip Hop Atlanta - H 2014

"LeAnn & Eddie" is a dud with viewers, but reality series starring African-American casts continue to drive the cable network to some of the year's biggest primetime gains.

A version of story first appeared in the Aug. 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

It is not a bad time to be VH1. Thanks to reality franchises Love & Hip Hop and Basketball Wives, the Viacom network is up 20 percent in primetime among adults 18-49 in 2014 — the biggest rise among the top 25 basic cable nets.

But three lackluster launches in July (LeAnn & Eddie, Candidly Nicole and Dating Naked) illustrate that VH1 faces an uphill battle to extend the success of shows starring African-Americans (and with primarily black viewers) to those starring white celebrities.

"The goal is to bring a general market audience back into the fold in addition to servicing our African-American audience," originals exec vp Susan Levison said earlier in 2014. That includes plans to broaden the network, continuing to focus on pop culture, music and nostalgia.

Of the latest crop, Dating Naked has been the only show to find a reasonable audience, averaging 758,000 viewers over the first few episodes. And, in fairness, most reality series don't rocket out of the gate. Love & Hip Hop dipped as low as 680,000 viewers during its first season.

Still, the dismal debut of LeAnn Rimes' docuseries (see below) does not bode particularly well for the similar September entry I Heart Nick Carter.