Working to reverse declines in ratings and ad revenue,
Viacom outlined programming strategies at Nickelodeon and MTV to recapture the
attention of their young audiences.
Nickelodeon is beginning to create preschool programming for
the post-millennial generation, a group the company hopes to keep on its channels
throughout their youth.
At MTV, the network is preparing for life after Jersey Shore with a schedule the company
hopes will be more balanced and deeper.
Viacom's Networks group reported lower
revenue and profits during the first quarter. Speaking on the company's
earnings conference call with analysts, Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman said that
the company has been increasing its investment in programming.
Dauman said viewers "want new shows and new episodes in
faster cycles and so we're delivering it on our networks, accelerating
development timelines and production to accelerate our ratings turnaround."
Analysts following Viacom have been particularly concerned
with Nickelodeon, whose ratings suddenly began plummeting at the end of 2011,
and MTV, which has been pumped up by Jersey
Shore, a phenomenon that ended in December. Those networks were the first two
Dauman addressed in his remarks.
Dauman said that Nickelodeon is focused on three priorities:
to reclaim and retain its Saturday morning leadership, to strengthen its
weekday afternoon block and to build its preschool viewership to feed future
"That last point is particularly critical as the network
hits the generational reset button," Dauman said. "Nickelodeon's long-term
strategy is to refine its programming filter for an audience that is purely
post-millennial, a position the network will detail to advertisers as the kids
upfront kicks off next month."
Dauman said that in a month or so, Nick will be introducing
a new live afternoon block, and that through September, the network will be debuting
six new animated series, including Monsters
The network will also be freshening up its workhorses SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer.
"Much of the success in getting new programming to screens
faster can be tied back to Nickelodeon's move to centralize and reorganize its
creative leadership in Los Angeles under Russell Hicks," named president of
content development last August, Dauman said. "Our television movie and short-form,
live-action and animation teams are working in a coordinated fashion, sharing
best practices and writers, and have taken steps to accelerate development and
production. We have especially focused on enhancing our animation efforts and
we have attracted significant new talent in that area."
Nickelodeon has also been working on its multiplatform
offerings and plans to debut what Dauman called "an innovative standalone app"
in the months to come.
Dauman said that MTV has begun to answer the question of what's
next after Jersey Shore.
He said new programming president Susanne Daniels has hit
the ground running. She has completed a review of production partners and
accelerated the network's pilot process. The
network also hired Mina Lefevre from ABC Family as its new head of scripted
"The overarching mission of MTV remains unchanged. We're
focused on being the cultural home of the millennial generation," Dauman said. "But
within that context, we're rolling out more and more original programs that tap
into creative themes that we see popping up in youth culture."
One of those themes is the new ways millennials navigate
relationships. MTV's Catfish is an
example of that. Dauman said Catfish
was the highest-rated new cable series with MTV's core 12-34-year-old audience
last year. "The vitality of the show has been remarkable, even before the
phenomenon of catfishing went mainstream" thanks to the story of Notre Dame
football player Manti Te'o and his nonexistent girlfriend.
Dauman said MTV is also reinventing reality with diverse new
voices and expanding its female comedy franchise.
"The underpinnings of this creative breadth is a scheduling
strategy that uses our existing hits as a launch pad for the influx of new
originals and creates a more balanced weekly schedule for audiences and
advertisers," Dauman said.
Dauman said that the huge ratings for Jersey Shore created an over-emphasis on one night for MTV. "We are
now successfully building out additional nights, whether it's the Teen Mom and Catfish reality block on Mondays or female comedies like Snooki and JWoww, Nikki & Sara Live and Awkward
on Tuesday nights," he said.
MTV is attracting audiences by creating programming events
on weekends by running marathons of such shows as True Life and Jackass.