VH1 (originally an initialism of Video Hits One) is an American cable and satellite television network based in New York City operated by the Viacom Global Entertainment Group, a unit of Viacom Media Networks, a division of Viacom. It was originally created by Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, at the time a division of Warner Communications and the original owner of MTV, and launched on 1 January 1985 in the former space of Turner Broadcasting System's short-lived Cable Music Channel.
The original purpose of the channel was to build upon the success of MTV by playing music videos, but targeting a slightly older demographic than its sister channel, focusing on the lighter, softer side of popular music. More recently, much like MTV, VH1 has been in the area of reality television programming, such as Behind the Music, the I Love… series and the Celebreality block of programming, as part of the channel's current focus on programming primarily aimed towards women.
VH1's aim was to focus on the lighter, softer side of popular music, including such musicians as Olivia Newton-John, Kenny Rogers, Carly Simon, Tina Turner, Elton John, Billy Joel, Eric Clapton, Sting, Donna Summer, Rod Stewart, Kenny G, Michael Bolton, Anita Baker, Chicago and Fleetwood Mac, in hopes of appealing to people aged 18 to 35, and possibly older. Also frequently featured in the network's early years were "videos" for Motown and other 60s oldies consisting of newsreel and concert footage. It was introduced on 1 January 1985 with the video performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner" by Marvin Gaye.
From the start, Video Hits One was branded as an urban version of its sister/parent channel. It played more jazz and R&B artists than MTV and had a higher rotation of urban-contemporary performers. Its early on-camera personalities were New York radio veterans Don Imus (then of WNBC), Frankie Crocker (then program director and DJ for WBLS), Scott Shannon (of WHTZ), Jon Bauman ("Bowzer" from Sha Na Na), Bobby Rivers, and Rita Coolidge.
Later VJs included Tim Byrd of WPIX-FM (the current day FM rebroadcast of WFAN), a station whose eclectic ballad-and-R&B oriented format mirrored that of VH-1, and Alison Steele ("The Nightbird" of WNEW-FM). Rosie O'Donnell later joined the outlet's veejay lineup. O'Donnell would also host a comedy show featuring various comedians each episode. As an added touch to make the network more like a televised radio station, the early years of the network featured jingles in their bumpers produced by JAM Creative Productions in Dallas, who had previously made jingles for radio stations worldwide.
The format left room for occasional ad-libs by the VJ, a godsend for emcees such as Imus and O'Donnell. In true Imus style, he used a 1985 segment of his VH-1 show to jokingly call smooth-jazz icon Sade Adu a "grape" for her oval-shaped head.