MTV Analysis - April 2011

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APRIL 2011 PRIMETIME SCHEDULE:

* Bold denotes programming change

SCHEDULING STRATEGIES:

MTV's schedule is constantly changing.  They usually have at least 3 nights of primetime first-run programs, while the other nights are either re-runs or other specials.  They fill gaps in the schedule by showing feature films and a few acquired series relevant to their audience.  The timeslots leading up to premieres are usually a marathon of episodes of weeks' past.  They rely on a lot of repetition in the form of marathons, especially on the weekends.  They also make good use of tent poling by scheduling longstanding reliable series like THE REAL WORLD at 10pm and new, untested content either right before or at 10:30 or 11pm.

APRIL 2011 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / April 2011 vs. April 2010 (% Change)

HH

M18-49

F18-49

P18-49

Monday 8-11pm

13%

57%

-33%

0%

Tuesday 8-11pm

14%

50%

19%

22%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-8%

-9%

-15%

-13%

Thursday 8-11pm

36%

10%

64%

50%

Friday 8-11pm

0%

-14%

-8%

-10%

Saturday 8-11pm

-13%

0%

-14%

-11%

Sunday 8-11pm

-13%

-20%

-31%

-22%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

0%

29%

0%

8%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Well, it was bound to happen eventually: MTV finally faltered in the ratings. After months of primetime dominance, the network finally proved fallible.

This dramatic numbers drop shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise – premiere episodes of MTV’s dependable powerhouses (JERSEY SHORE and TEEN MOM) were absent from the schedule.

Compared to last month, the network was down nearly every night in all demographics.  Despite this, MTV still fared respectably compared to April of last year: the numbers were roughly split between gains and losses.

Tuesdays – which featured TEEN MOM and 16 AND PREGNANT – were easily the strongest night for the network.  TEEN MOM proved again that, even when relegated to re-runs, the show has considerable appeal. Although TEEN MOM featured no new episodes, the show was the highest overall program for the month. Historically, the show garners the most attention from women aged 18-49; this month was no different.  Over 2.5 times as many young women tuned in for the show over their male counterpart.

16 AND PREGNANT – which claimed the fifth slot in the April ratings – also helped boost Tuesday nights.  In fact, the April 19 premiere snatched the 4th place spot among all ad-sustained programs. Like its popular spinoff, 16 AND PREGNANT continues to be highly female-skewed: twice as many women tuned in during April.

Even with no new episodes proper, JERSERY SHORE pulled in ratings for its Season 3 reunion show. Collectively, the four telecasts of the reunion show managed to take second place behind TEEN MOM.

That a JERSEY SHORE special is able to attract strong numbers without a premiere episode lead-in says a lot about the show’s popularity.  The Season 4 premiere date is far from finalized – repeated delays have pushed filming back.  It seems Italian officials are doing their best to keep the JERSEY cast (and their depiction of Italian-Americans) out of the country.

Thursdays were the second biggest night for the network, bolstered by new episodes of AMERICA’S BEST DANCE CREW.  Thursdays also saw increases among all demos across the board compared to last year.  Though DANCE CREW was severely female skewing, the show posted strong numbers.  Considering Thursdays last year also aired premiered DANCE episodes, it appears the show is gaining more traction with MTV’s audience.

ROB DYRDEK’S FANTASY FACTORY, which aired premiere episodes on Monday nights, had the distinction of being the only clearly male skewing program for the month.  On any given month MTV typically airs a show or two specifically geared to young men to balance out the programming a bit.  Interestingly, viewership among males aged 18-49 was up 29% compared to last year for MTV.

Fridays and weekends – which were comprised of HARD TIMES and other assorted re-runs) were disappointing for the network: the ratings were much weaker than Tuesdays through Thursdays and both the monthly and yearly ratings were down.

CABLEU NEED TO KNOW:

MTV is the mecca for all that’s young and “what’s next.”  Although the network no longer focuses exclusively on music (in fact, they dropped ‘music television’ from their logo), there is a distinct music flavor to the network, even when the shows (like THE REAL WORLD or TEEN MOM) don’t necessarily have anything technically musical about them.

Despite MTV’s best efforts to gravitate away from reality programming, the platform is simply too successful to dump.   Recently, an MTV programmer contacted us to report that, “With our recent hits like TEEN MOM and JERSEY SHORE, we find that our audience wants to see some of their own lives reflected in the programs they watch.” Look for new reality shows to have a similar flavor to MTV’s most popular franchises.  One example of an upcoming show with strong ties to past programming is a starring vehicle for JERSEY SHORE favorite Pauly D.

MTV continues to eye new material that fits with their present repertoire of programs. The network’s youthful audience enjoys seeing on-screen characters that relate in some way to their own lives.  While reality TV has been the preferred medium in recent years, MTV is focused on delivering more scripted teenage drama.

Although MTV’s scripted drama SKINS floundered on the big stage, MTV claims that they remain undeterred.  The show’s plummeting ratings finally stabilized in February and, after a shaky foray into the scripted arena, MTV is committed to expanding its fictional content.

“The scripted presence of our network is a very important part of our plan,” said David Janollari, President of Programming. “And we’re in it for the long run.”

Scripted concepts on the horizon include THE INBETWEENERS, TEEN WOLF, and LOST IN THE WOODS.  Descriptions for each of these may be found in the “Development” section of our MTV Analysis. The network is also reviving two familiar faces – BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD – as it looks to incorporate new animated shows into its schedule.

MTV’s General Manager, Stephen Friedman explains this ambitious transition: “We held on to Generation X a little too long, and our programming reflected that.  MTV needs to shed its skin every three years.  We had to ask ourselves: what does this younger audience want? And the answer was brutal honesty."

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