Graden's going...Can MTV improve the ratings?
Tonight’s news that Brian Graden is exiting MTV Networks should come as no surprise to anyone who’s been watching Viacom’s ratings issues. According to statistics provided by Credit Suisse last week, flagship MTV’s ability to keep a grip on the 12-34 year olds has been challenged to put it nicely. With the exception of fourth quarter 2007, MTV has been down in its target demo every quarter from beginning of 2007 through first quarter 2009. In April and May, Credit Suisse reports that the channel is down close to 20% year-on-year in its target demo, one that advertisers are hard pressed to nail.
To be fair though, VH-1, which Graden oversees alongside MTV, saw double digit growth in May. It was down 4.5% in the first quarter.
While cable is expected to show flat ad returns in aggregate in 2009, Credit Suisse says Viacom is expected to see a 7% decline. Advertising accounts for 54% of the company’s cable revenue and ratings are the lifeblood.
Executives who’ve worked closely with Graden gripe that he blocked many of their best ideas; it’s a common enough complaint among creative hierarchies especially under stress. Others suggest that the well-respected programming executive had simply burned out of ideas - even while he had more than many executives will have an entire career.