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Nina Diaz On VH1’s Unscripted Plans As Net Hits Milestone With ‘T.I. & Tiny’ Finale

Deadline logo Deadline 5/29/2017 Nellie Andreeva
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T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle is ending its six-season run on VH1 tonight with a series finale, which marks the show’s 100th episode — the first VH1 series ever to hit that milestone.

On the strength of long-running unscripted series like T.I. & Tiny, whose sixth season is pacing up +20% from season five; Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, whose most recent Season 6 debut was the highest rated premiere in VH1 history; and Basketball Wives, whose season 6 premiere delivered the highest rating in franchise history, VH1 has delivered seven consecutive quarters of ratings growth. It has gotten a boost from solid recent additions like RuPaul’s Drag Race — relocating from Logo — whose season nine premiere was the most watched telecast in franchise history, Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, Hip Hop Squares and the revived America’s Next Top Model.

In an interview with Deadline tied to the T.I. & Tiny finale, VH1 head of unscripted Nina Diaz talks about the series’ legacy as potential spinoffs as well possible offshoots from established VH1 franchises like Love & Hip Hop and Baseball Wives. She shares details about the upcoming season of Top Model, the network’s plans to grow Drag Race and whether VH1 staples Mob Wives or Behind the Music could be revived as nostalgia is making a TV comeback. The network recently unveiled a new programming slate built around the notion of VH1 as a place ” where pop culture comes to party,” which includes a Ricky Martin series, ’90s House and Scared Famous. 

DEADLINE: The Love & Hip Hop and Baseball Wives franchises have expanded with spinoffs in different cities. Are you working on new offshoots?

DIAZ: With Love & Hip Hop we are in Atlanta and New York and have intentions to expand the franchise to another city. Black Ink Crew, we’re currently in two cities, Chicago and New York. We continue to look and develop other new exciting ideas around those franchises and those amazing characters. Same with Basketball Wives. Coming soon is another city that we’ll be in for Basketball Wives, and of course Shaunie’s Home Court Life, which is a spinoff of Basketball Wives.

DEADLINE: Will Leave it Stevie continue?

DIAZ:  Stevie is sort of the ambassador of Love & Hip Hop, with Atlanta being the highest rated of the franchises and the second city in after New York. He’s one of the biggest, most iconic cast members and an original. So we did do a first season, Stevie J & Joseline: Go Take Hollywood, and then the second was Leave It To Stevie, and we’re discussing what others may look like.

DEADLINE: So these are limited-run offshoots with him, and you are mulling the next one?

DIAZ: Exactly. We’re looking for that hook, because it’s all about something that’s uniquely going on in his life that you won’t see on Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta.

DEADLINE: Most of VH1’s new shows have a celebrity or pop culture angle. Is this the programming direction you are going into?

DIAZ: Yes. Our new branding statement is ‘where pop culture comes to party’, as you know. VH1 was that first pop culture brand and that’s our heritage, that’s our sweet spot, so we’re going to continue to develop in that world and continue to debut new series that are either celebrating pop culture or are celebrity-driven or are adjacent to celebrity culture. For example, we have coming up the Ricky Martin Project where we’re going to be going deep with one of the most private and guarded global superstars of our time. And then there is Scared Famous, where we’re going to take 10 celebrities and move them into one of the spookiest mansions in America.

DEADLINE: One of your new series in ’90s House. How strong is the nostalgia factor at VH1, with the 90s making a comeback in pop culture?

DIAZ: Obviously ‘90s is huge with millennials in music and fashion. Throwback Thursdays is so often centered around iconic ‘90s moments, and I Love the ‘90s has always been a part of our DNA. So in a lot of ways, bringing nostalgia to primetime is very important to us, and ‘90s House is a perfect example of a show that is sort of turning a concept like I Love the ‘90s into a living, breathing experience.

DEADLINE: What about VH1 1990s staples like Behind the Musical and Pop-up Videos. Would they make a comeback?

DIAZ: It’s not something that’s on the plate. But we’re always looking into our heritage and legacy. We have an amazing catalog of IP, and those are titles that we discuss and we will continue to discuss.

DEADLINE: Mob Wives was one of the first successful franchises at VH1 in the last decade with multiple offshoots. Is it a concept and characters that you would like to revisit? 

DIAZ: Yeah, Mob Wives actually was part of my former career, I was on the production company side for that. It’s a loved and popular franchise and though that particularly series had run its course, some of the women like Drita you will see pop up on the channel in other ways and other franchises. If there were ever another compelling way in or compelling reason, we’re always in touch with them to get back into Staten Island, so who knows.

DEADLINE: Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party is a talk show. It’s different than the docuseries that VH1 is known for. What other genres would you like to pursue and expand into?

DIAZ: The wonderful thing about Martha & Snoop was that it was so original and at the same time an amazing way for us to get into a food-based format. Along with continuing to look for those big, bold docuseries, we also want to keep on exploring such areas as finding new ways to do pop culture competition and house shows and games — in the vein of Hip Hop Square — that are a spectacle and innovative.

DEADLINE: Will music continue to be an important part on VH1’s unscripted brand?

DIAZ:  First of all, music is pop culture. Music is the soundtrack of our lives and it’s always going to be a backdrop that we, because it is celebrity adjacent, it’s always going to be a backdrop. Obviously Love & Hip Hop is completely based in the hip-hop world.

DEADLINE: What about morning and late night? You had VH1 Live! in late-night and The Gossip Table in daytime. Are you still looking to do something in other day parts outside of primetime?

DIAZ: Right now our focus and obviously, our huge success is in primetime, having 10 of the top 20 unscripted series on cable. That’s where we want to continue to build out. Friday night with Drag Race on VH1, Wednesday, which we opened up with Black Ink Crew, and even building on Monday with the addition of Martha & Snoop and Hip Hop Squares. And there’s more to come.

DEADLINE: Are there any plans to expand and franchise RuPaul’s Drag Race now that it is on VH1?

DIAZ: We’re certainly talking about how we can have fun with Drag Race and how we can amplify even further and take it to new heights, what that looks like and what opportunities are there. We continue to be so impressed with the performance of that series, and it’s a classic, it’s groundbreaking and there’s nothing like it anywhere else. We would love to see it grow even more in any way that we can nurture it.

DEADLINE: What can you tell us about the upcoming season of America’s Next Top Model with Tyra Banks as a host? Will there be any changes?

DIAZ: We just started filming this week and, obviously, the big news there is Tyra’s back, and Ashley Graham is back and that supermodel mogul duo is pretty awesome and presents such a well-rounded body positive, diverse side of the business that I don’t think you ever see anywhere else. That’s a powerhouse duo of modeling. There is some other talent to come, we’re very excited by the creative and where we’re going to go.

DEADLINE: Going back to T.I. & Tiny. What is the legacy of the show for VH1?

DIAZ: It’s an incredible legacy. We’ve had a great partnership with Tip and Tameka. Their family has been a cultural touchstone, they are the lovable first family of VH1. We have gone through six seasons of seeing them, their children grow from little kids to teenagers. We saw the birth of baby Heiress. Their son Messiah is preparing to leave the nest for college. We were there for so many important family moments. We’ve seen Niq Niq and Domani, which are two of the other teens, bring music like their mother and father to a new generation of fans.

DEADLINE: Any plans for spinoffs or a follow-up series?

DIAZ: You never know. We want to continue to be in business with Tameka and Tip. We love them and we love all of the kids. We love what they have shared and what they stand for and we would love to continue to see what evolves and develops.

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