The Victoria’s Secret fashion show, an annual spectacle of glitter, cleavage and pop music, will no longer air on network television after a nearly two-decade run.
The announcement was made in a Friday memo to the chain’s associates from Leslie Wexner, chief executive of Victoria’s Secret’s parent company, L Brands. Wexner said the company had been “taking a fresh look at every aspect of our business” in the past few months, and noted that the brand “must evolve and change to grow.”
“With that in mind, we have decided to re-think the traditional Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show,” he wrote. “Going forward we don’t believe network television is the right fit.” He said the company would develop “a new kind of event” on different platforms in the future, though he gave no further details.
The decision comes as Victoria’s Secret, the largest lingerie company in the United States, works to revamp its image and as interest in the once-major TV event has plummeted. The show first aired in 2001 with an hourlong special on ABC. It attracted millions of viewers who tuned in to watch the brand’s supermodels strut runways in 6-inch heels, crystal-encrusted lingerie and massive wings, with musical performances from megastars like Taylor Swift, the Spice Girls and Lady Gaga. Some decried the show and criticized it for objectifying women. But many viewed the event as a stroke of marketing genius — a commercial for the Victoria’s Secret brand packaged as a prime-time special.
But those days are long gone. Viewership for the show, which has hopscotched between ABC and CBS, dropped by roughly two-thirds within five years. Last year, it drew an audience of 3.3 million viewers, down from 9.7 million viewers in 2013.
The fashion show attracted unwanted attention late last year, when Edward Razek, chief marketing officer of L Brands, came under fire for comments he made about casting plus-size and transgender models in the event.
“So it’s like, why don’t you do 50?” Razek said, referring to sizing, in an interview with Vogue. “Why don’t you do 60? Why don’t you do 24? It’s like, why doesn’t your show do this? Shouldn’t you have transsexuals in the show? No. No, I don’t think we should. Well, why not? Because the show is a fantasy. It’s a 42-minute entertainment special.”
Wexner said in his memo Friday that the newly appointed head of the Victoria’s Secret lingerie business and his team were “re-birthing the brand,” and expressed his excitement about its future.
“We have made enormous progress in a very short time, and are looking forward to a successful fall and holiday with an elevated, fashion-forward assortment,” he wrote.