When RuPaul’s Drag Race moved to VH1 back in 2017, for its ninth season, it left behind an empty shell of a cable channel: Logo is basically a wasteland of reruns, like CMT.
Since then, its parent company has shown a willingness to use Drag Race—one of its more-valuable assets—to make itself more money, first threatening to move All-Stars to Showtime, but then keeping it on VH1 until moving it to Paramount+ the next season.
Now Paramount Global is moving Drag Race around yet again, while also adding new seasons and another new all-star spin-off.
This time, Paramount Global is moving the flagship series, RuPaul’s Drag Race, to MTV, its most iconic cable network.
MTV hasn’t been left to die like VH1 and CMT, as it does have original shows such as The Challenge, though it mostly airs repeats of a ridiculous clip show.
The change will be effective immediately, as RuPaul’s Drag Race season 15 premieres on MTV Jan. 6, and stays in its usual timeslot.
Interestingly, though, VH1 will still have Drag Race: the third season of RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race, which reinvented itself in season two to be more like The Masked Singer. That will air next year.
The network shuffling is curious, and MTV/Paramount Global did not explain it. Both networks reach about the same number of homes.
Is this a sign the parent company will kill off VH1 like it did with Logo? Is it consolidating its competition reality TV on MTV? Did it misplace a few episodes of Ridiculousness and need something to fill the time? Do Drag Race fans care what network the show is even on?
I asked some of these questions on social media, and Vulture’s Joe Adalian pointed out that Paramount Global has restructured its cable networks so that VH1 and BET are in one group, the BET Media Group, while Paramount Media Networks includes Paramount Network, MTV, Comedy Central, and CMT.
That’s echoed in the press release, with Chris McCarthy, whose title is President/CEO, Paramount Media Networks and MTV Entertainment Studios, saying that he is “very excited that RuPaul’s Secret Celebrity Drag Race will return for a third season with our partners at VH1/BET.”
“Our partners” is such an odd way to describe other dying cable networks that are also part of the same company.
Basically, the move seems to be about keeping the show with its same executives, so nothing to do with viewers.
It is curious, though, that Paramount Global CEO Bob Bakish said, in a November memo published by Variety, that VH1 has “the second largest U.S. cable network for Black viewership” and BET Media Group is “centered around the Black Community, Black Culture and Content.” Do they think Drag Race doesn’t fit with that mission?
A new all-star Drag Race, plus more international versions
Meanwhile, the Drag Race format is going to expand even more:
- Drag Race Global All Stars will air on Paramount+
- Brazil, Germany, and Mexico are each getting their own versions of the show
RuPaul himself was not mentioned in the press release, and the press release did not mention who would be hosting or producing the new international versions. I assume these will be versions of the show that will have local judges, which are by far the better series.
Drag Race Global All Stars is interesting because Drag Race has recently started its “vs the World” spin-offs. Both of those—RuPaul’s Drag Race: UK vs the World and Canada’s Drag Race: Canada vs. the World—have basically just been local all-star seasons with a few people from other franchises, making the “vs the World” part of their titles seem like hyperbole.
Meanwhile, the cast of The Challenge: Global Championship will be half MTV stars, so not exactly fully “global.”
I hope “Global All Stars” has more significant meaning for Drag Race, and won’t be as heavily weighted toward American contestants, especially considering the talent on some of the international versions of the show.
RuPaul’s Drag Race is clearly a wildly successful format and brand, even if the producing leaves a lot to be desired.