MTV Looks to Rebuild By “Harnessing Its Heritage”

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June and July were landmark months for Viacom’s MTV, which hadn’t seen back to back months of ratings growth in four years among its core demographic, 18- to 34-year-olds.

Some of this growth has been attributed to re-engineered reality television, including “Fear Factor” and sketch comedy show “Wild ‘n Out.” But there’s a lot more waiting in the wings at MTV, especially if Chris McCarthy, MTV President, can bring his entire vision to life.

Bringing Back Music to Music Television

Several attempts at turnaround strategies at MTV have failed spectacularly, but McCarthy has high hopes for his newest plan to stop the bleeding at the cable channel.

Among other things, he intends to bring back “Total Request Live,” the 1998-2008 program that made Carson Daly famous. For the October release, plans are to run TRL for an hour a day, focusing on music videos, studio audiences and regular appearances from musicians.

According to reporting by the New York Times, McCarthy speculates that TRL could be expanded to fill two to three hours a day of MTV programming. Along with creating a modern revival of an old fan favorite, unique daily content for a range of social media platforms is planned. McCarthy has total faith in the show’s comeback.

“Who’s not going to support a platform that’s covering all of the buckets of social media and cable to allow your artist to go on, play a video, perform a song and to talk about their new music that just got released?” he said in an interview. “How do you say no to that? We’re going to give it a shot, a big shot.”

Rule #1: Don’t Forget Your Demographic

The other huge change McCarthy has already put into process is changing the branding of MTV to appeal more to a younger audience. After all, MTV is about young voices, he reasoned. “MTV at its best — whether it’s news, whether it’s a show, whether it’s a docu-series – is about amplifying young people’s voices.”

Realigning that brand message means necessary swap outs of staff, including replacing older members like the journalists he hired from Bill Simmon’s Grantland with younger faces. TRL, for example, will feature five young and relatively unknown presenters, including DC Young Fly, a comedian and rapper, and Erik Zachary, a radio host from Chicago.

 

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