Tom Calderone

VH1

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Video killed the radio star but Tom Calderone made the transition from radio to TV just fine, thank you.

The general manager of VH1 left the radio business in 1998 to work in music and talent programming for MTV Network and has carved out a space right where music and pop culture intersect. When he was tapped to replace Christina Norman as general manager of VH1 last May (after Ms. Norman was moved to the top spot at MTVN's flagship, MTV), the network was on pace to score its highest rated year ever.

"The challenge was please don't mess this up," he says of his charge in coming to the network. "I was asked to look at the assets around it and make it bigger." Those assets included V Spot, the network's broadband channel that launched last summer, and some of the fast-growing digital channels such as VH1 Classic.

Mr. Calderone believes exclusive programming and features will be the driver to the network's digital media plays. V Spot, for example, has become the place where much of the network's music festival coverage lives. Network execs are also in the process of using V Spot to reinvent the Top 20 Countdown. Users of the broadband channel will be able to create their own playlists, tabulate the results and come up with a countdown. They'll be able to e-mail their playlists to friends. "It's a cool technology," says Mr. Calderone.

VH1 Classic was another area that needed a boost, Mr. Calderone says. "We were well-respected by press and fans, but we wanted to get more people passionate about it," he says. Instead of just playing classic music, it can be the home for classic artists. While a new Bruce Springsteen song would almost certainly play on VH1, its headquarters per se would be on VH1 Classic. And while music videos from the '80s and early '90s will remain a staple, expect to see him add programs where the channel celebrates a particular year in pop culture.

For all the brand extensions Mr. Calderone has been charged with invigorating, the main network has had its high points since he took the reins as well. The season finale of Public Enemy rapper Flavor Flav's "Flavor of Love," for example, scored its highest ratings ever. While some critics, including Public Enemy's Chuck D, denounced Flav and his performance as "inappropriate behavior," Mr. Calderone says the shows were well within the network's mold.

"It's done in a very VH1 way, with a smirk, a wink and very tongue in cheek," he says. "And it's really more about the buzz that happens after the episodes air-getting the message boards and blogs going."
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