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MTVN Is a Little of a Lot of Things

Freston brandishes his array of channels at broadcast 5/11/2003 08:00:00 PM Eastern

With an arsenal that spans TV extremes from Ashton Kutcher's prank show Punk'd to classic family sitcom All in the Family, MTV Networks peddles programs to satisfy most TV tastes. Now, for the first time, Viacom Inc.'s stable of cable channels will marshal its forces to fight broadcast networks for advertising dollars.

MTVN's most successful niche nets like MTV and Nickelodeon have always done well snaring ad dollars for themselves. But, to make a run for a bigger share of the pie, MTVN is touting the collective reach and brand prowess of all
its channels.

MTV Networks Chairman Tom Freston says his "one big shopping cart" of channels offers clients "the marketing solutions you need and the best counter you can get to broadcast inflation."

That cart includes music nets MTV, VH1, MTV2 and CMT, as well as entertainment outlets Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, TV Land, the new Spike and College Television Network.

The push to siphon off broadcast loot started last week broadcast-style at MTVN's first joint upfront presentation. Nearly 3,000 media buyers and clients packed New York's Madison Square Garden Theater and were treated to music acts Elton John and Kid Rock and energized presentations by MTV execs. Viacom stars, from President Mel Karmazin to Daily Show
host Jon Stewart (soon to be part of the MTVN family), helped with the pitch.

MTVN is not the first cable family to make a collective appeal. Discovery Networks and Turner Broadcasting present, and often sell, some of their nets in concert, and Turner, particularly, has put its bull's-eye right on broadcast-network buyers

But MTVN's specific appeal, buyers say, is its targeted demographics and programming. "There are more targeted networks, like HGTV or ESPN," said Horizon Media Executive Vice President of Broadcast Aaron Cohen, "but MTVN does a multiplicity of things."

That will only get stronger when Viacom's acquisition of Comedy Central is finalized within weeks. Comedy is selling on its own this upfront but will be part of future MTVN deals.

Much like their counterparts at Turner and Discovery, people at MTVN are trying to debunk what they claim are myths about advertising on cable. Reach and share, they claim, can be replicated. Maybe a single show doesn't deliver broadcast ratings, but batch of cable shows or channels can. (Plus, they come at lower CPMs). And, while broadcast audience share is declining, cable is attracting more and more eyeballs.

MTVN claims the biggest share of adults 18-34 and 18-49 on cable. Even more, it says it rivals broadcasters for these coveted demographic groups. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, the group outdelivers The WB and chases NBC. And, in the 18-34 demo, MTVN says, it controls 10% of all ad-supported viewing and outdraws The WB and rivals Fox.

Media buyer Tom DeCabia, executive vice president for PHD says, "They got the community's attention. They are laying the seeds now for the future."

One aspect of the presentation raised eyebrows: In numerous comparisons to NBC, ABC, Fox and The WB, there was no mention of older-skewing CBS and thinly viewed UPN. Both are owned by Viacom.

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