MTV Mixes Sponsored Clips Into Shows

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MTV is adding sponsor-branded clip segments to its shows on Thursday nights in an effort to keep its young viewers tuned-in throughout the night's programming--and its advertising.

In an eight-week experiment, which launches April 5 with its new Thursday Night Block, the network will showcase one advertiser per week in hosted segments woven between programming and commercials for other advertisers. The segments will be hosted by Three 6 Mafia, subjects of the new Thursday reality show Adventures In HollyHood, and will include bits about the sponsors' proucts as well as sponsor-branded previews and recaps of other MTV series.

Universal Pictures has signed on as the first sponsor and will promote its film Knocked Up. Three 6 will break into the Thursday shows to introduce Knocked Up-branded clips of other MTV shows, as well as footage from the film. Universal will also stamp the movie's logo onto on-air IDs, billboards and tags during promos for the Thursday fare. The hosted inter-show segments will also likely include branded music videos.

"We're trying to navigate the models that might be emerging in a brave new world with respect to advertising and programming," says Brian Graden, President of Entertainment, MTV Networks Music Group and President of Logo. "The idea is to sort of create a relatively seamless content experience for the entire block that also serves advertisers' needs."

MTV's two-hour Thursday lineup includes Pimp My Ride at 9 p.m., new sketch comedy series Nick Cannon Presents: Short Circuitz at 9:30 p.m., Adventures in HollyHood at 10 p.m. and new comedy shorts series Human Giant at 10:30 p.m. The humor-based Thursday block presented a thematically consistent arena for MTV to experiment with the ad/program mix, but Graden says he could see extending the format to other nights and dayparts.

The Viacom-owned network is fighting to stay relevant to its target 12-24-year-old audience, which, with the proliferation of broadband video sites, has more reason than ever to look beyond TV for entertainment. The network averaged 522,000 viewers 12-24 during prime in first quarter, down 5% from last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The Thursday night remix is also aimed at offering advertisers viewers who are "engaged," with spots and programs. Advertisers have been pressuring TV networks for such options because they say online outlets draw actively engaged consumers, who may pay closer attention to their ads, while TV draws passive viewers.

After a round of cost-cutting layoffs, MTV Networks in February () overhauled its ad and affiliate sales divisions, and began changing the way it presents content to advertisers.

The company formed three divisions and charged them with selling ads based on psychographic groups, rather than individual brands. The groups, including one for young-adult-focused MTV, VH1, The N and Logo, now work with three specialized ad sales divisions devoted to emerging media.

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