ViacomCBS says it’s severing its relationship with producer Big Fish Entertainment, the company behind VH1’s Love & Hip Hop and Black Ink Crew franchises — and also the recently canceled Live PD at A&E.
“We have decided to end our relationship with Big Fish Entertainment and will be producing our shows in house at this time,” reads a statement from ViacomCBS’ Entertainment and Youth Group, which includes VH1. “We thank Big Fish for their past contributions and wish them the best.”
The move is a blow to the MGM-owned Big Fish, which earlier this week jointly decided with A&E to cancel the latter’s top-rated series, Live PD, in the wake of continued nationwide protests against police brutality. The company also produced Cartel Crew for VH1 and CMT’s forthcoming Sweet Jesus.
Sources indicated to The Hollywood Reporter that ViacomCBS ended its relationship with Big Fish amid backlash over Live PD and the show’s handling of footage from a traffic chase in March 2019 that ended in the death of Javier Ambler in Austin, Texas. A Live PD crew was embedded with officers who chased Ambler, but the chase never aired on the series as A&E had a policy against showing fatalities on the show.
Sources close to Live PD told THR that the show’s policy is to keep unused footage for three weeks unless asked to do otherwise. In the Ambler case, an internal affairs investigation by the Williamson County sheriff’s office — which initiated the chase and whose officers tased Ambler several times — concluded that deputies did nothing wrong, after which Big Fish destroyed the unaired footage. Ambler’s death is now being investigated by the Austin Police Department and Travis County district attorney as he died within Austin’s boundaries. (Police body and dashboard cameras were also in use during the incident.)
VH1 announced in July 2019 that Big Fish would take over production of Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood; the company subsequently took control of the three other shows in the franchise as well. Eastern TV produced earlier seasons. Big Fish has produced Black Ink Crew and its spinoffs since the show’s beginning in 2013.
Big Fish also produces Live PD spinoff Live Rescue and America’s Top Dog for A&E, Amazon’s Regular Heroes and Food Network’s Amy Schumer Learns to Cook, among other shows.