way up in numbers,
turns to the tricks that work
'10 Spot' inspires summer and fall shows
As MTV plots its fall
strategy, the catch phrase might well be: Gimme 10.
MTV has kept itself fresh for nearly two decades now, having abandoned its trademark music video format nearly 10 years ago.
The move away from music, though initially criticized, has resulted in a slew of regularly scheduled shows that have propelled the network’s ratings.
Its "Total Request Live" has become a vital platform for new artists, while the "10 Spot" has spawned numerous hits, like "Daria," the just-renewed animated spin-off of "Beavis and Butthead" that goes about proving being uncool in high school can be pretty cool.
But it's the "10 spot" in particular that's serving as the backbone to MTV’s strategy for the shows in development for summer and fall.
Each pilot zeroes in on the network’s core target audience of people 12-34, with an emphasis on people 12-24.
"The '10 Spot' gives us the opportunity to create and experiment with long-form and original programming," says an MTV spokesperson. "We're launching our new summer slate when even more of our audience is home and tuning in."
"One of MTV's most important programming initiatives has been to build the '10 Spot' by introducing five full nights of original programming," she says. "Recently, we launched four new shows and created new episodes of existing series."
Since premiering "The 10 spot" five years ago, MTV’s ratings among people 12-34 have increased by 57 percent.
Going into its second decade, the changes at MTV have resulted in the highest concentration of adults 18-24 of any cable network, an audience considered vital to movie, video-game and music advertisers.
Overall, ratings are up to a 0.6, a 20 percent increase, for the first quarter of this year.
In primetime, MTV’s rating of 0.9 represents a 29 percent increase over the same time last year and makes it the No. 11 cable network.
The numbers are even more impressive for younger viewers. Ratings for MTV’s core target of adults 12-34 are up by 17 percent to a 0.7, making it the No. 1 network for that demo.
The success MTV has had in transforming itself from a limiting format –music videos – into something that more closely resembles a broadcast network has not gone unnoticed, with many other cable networks having followed suit.
Rather than focusing on a niche, say stand-up comedy, networks like Comedy Central have begun to expand into regularly scheduled programs.
The idea is hardly revolutionary--it's been the mainstay of broadcast TV for decades. But the practice serves to further blur the distinction between broadcast and cable.
That blur is particularly noteworthy among younger viewers. Having grown up with cable, many young people do not view broadcast and cable differently but rather see the whole package as simply TV.
Share of viewing among men 18-34 to cable is 50 percent and 45 percent to network, for example.
Among women 18-34, the trend is similar but less pronounced: 40 percent of viewing is to cable, 54 percent is to network.
As it prepares for fall, the network known for pushing the envelope -- its introduction of "Beavis and Butthead" several years ago and "Celebrity Death Match" being prime examples -- is continuing with shows that stray from the formulaic.
Shows in development include "Live Through This," the network’s first original drama, about the kids of a 1970s rock band.
Also in development: "The Click," an animated series about four friends off at different colleges who communicate via internet chat rooms and e-mail. Another animated show is "Spy Groove" about two twenty-something secret agents.
Expect to see more reality shows, too.
MTV has been extremely influential in the rise in alternative programming. "The Real World," going into its ninth season, propelled the format, which has been widely copied, most recently by the broadcast networks. Reality soaps are now sprinkled throughout their fall schedules, as the next great hope as the game show craze begins to appear weak at the knees.
MTV sister network VH-1 has had ratings success with alternative shows like "Behind the Music" as well.
In development, for example, is "MTV Cribs," something of a live version of "InStyle Magazine." In the show, celebrities give tours of their homes, down to the contents of their refrigerator.
Another alternative entry is "MTV M.I.A," which revisits once prominent musical acts, along the lines of VH-1’s "Where Are They Now?" series.
"Road Home" follows musical performers to their hometown and tracks the steps they took in their career. It is a documentary-style show that includes a performance by the profiled celebrity.
Mocking the alternative format, and boy bands like "The Backstreet Boys," MTV is turning its first made-for-TV movie, "2Gether" into a regular series, starting this summer. The boy band parody was watched by 1.5 million people and managed to beat out the major broadcast networks among people 12-24.
The "10 Spot" is being used to launch several series this summer and fall. Two of the shows in development are soap operas for the twenty-something crowd.
"Hell House" centers on a haunted boarding house and is written and produced by former soap actresses.
"SpyderWeb" is about a murdered computer entrepreneur and follows the lives of his friends and family, all of whom have reason to be his killer.
Shows related to music in development include "Jams 2000," which allows viewers to edit videos via their computer. "Video Feuds" is also interactive. Videos from different bands are pitted against each other and voted on by viewers through the internet.
- Kevin Downey is a staff writer for Media Life.