Like MTV, Vevo Charges Hard Into Original Shows

With Six Scripted and Unscripted Series, It Hopes to Prove It Can Be More Than YouTube's Music-Video Channel

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A few of us can remember when MTV actually had music videos and not the litany of reality shows it airs now. Vevo is making a similar move into scripted and unscripted programming, and today unveiled a slate of six new shows at its NewFront presentation to advertisers.

Vevo's take on "American Idol" is called "Busk or Bust," a reality show where contestants "literally sing for their supper." The show will be co-produced by Shine Entertainment, formerly Reveille, producer of "Biggest Loser," "The Office" and other shows.

A dating show, "Hear Me Out," will match potential mates based on the compatibility of their playlists. That show will be produced by Principato-Young Entertainment, known for working with Jim Carrey. "You Play Like a Girl," hosted by former Hole drummer Sam Maloney, will chronicle the lives of young women trying to make it in the music business.

At Vevo's NYC NewFront event, from left: VEVO EVP David Kohl, singer John Legend, VEVO President Rio Caraeff and SVP Michael Cerda.
At Vevo's NYC NewFront event, from left: VEVO EVP David Kohl, singer John Legend, VEVO President Rio Caraeff and SVP Michael Cerda. Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for VEVO

Other shows include "Sound & City," a guide to music hot spots in various cities; "Strange Island," a musical comedy, and "Cover Stories," a comedic take on iconic album covers. Episodes will be short-form and varied in length. Vevo VP-Programming Scott Reich said the shows would be longer than typical web series but wouldn't be constrained by TV's hour and half-hour formats.

"We're not moving away from music videos, but we are branching out into lifestyle genres that have a connection to music, like fashion, gaming, sports and travel," said David Kohl, Vevo's sales chief.

Though music videos have essentially disappeared from TV, they're perfect for the web, Mr. Kohl said. "The reason people watch them on the web is because they can choose them; on TV, they were fed them, it was one-way."

Like all the web companies making a pitch this week during the NewFronts, Vevo compared itself favorably to TV, saying it reaches more young people on more devices. Vevo has had enormous scale since it turned the lights on in late 2009 as the de facto distributor of music videos on YouTube. Today it is YouTube's top "channel," with 49 million unique U.S. viewers in March, according to ComScore. (Warner Music Group, the only major not participating in Vevo, is No. 2 on YouTube.)

Magna Global CEO Tim Spengler compared the era with cable-TV's early days. "It feels like 1989, and with the evolution of cable, you had some brands that were recognized and could deliver scale and you had a lot of startups on the television dial," he said.

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