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MTV Analysis - February 2010 - Broadcasting & Cable

MTV Analysis - February 2010

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FEBRUARY 2010 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 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.

FEBRUARY 2010 PRIMETIME RATINGS ANALYSIS:

Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / February 2010 vs. February 2009  (% Change)

HH

M18-49

F18-54

P18-49

Monday 8-11pm

0%

0%

-25%

-20%

Tuesday 8-11pm

60%

0%

115%

82%

Wednesday 8-11pm

-17%

-25%

-29%

-27%

Thursday 8-11pm

-13%

-9%

-22%

-22%

Friday 8-11pm

0%

-29%

11%

0%

Saturday 8-11pm

0%

-29%

-20%

-13%

Sunday 8-11pm

-33%

-64%

17%

-38%

MTWTFSS 8-11pm

-10%

-22%

0%

-9%

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

After a very successful January, February proved to be another one of MTV's "transitional" months.  This meaning that the big ratings winners in January reached their seasons' end, leaving some nights in the schedule with re-runs.  The nights with new programs or new seasons have not yet begun to pick up steam, as MTV series have been tending to do lately as the season progresses.  An example of this was last month's JERSEY SHORE finale having tripled the share of it's premiere 2 months earlier.  AMERICA'S NEXT BEST DANCE CREW (ABDC), MTV's new Thursday series also has had this gradual audience pickup week to week.  This is partly due to social networking and word of mouth making the show a hit little by little.  But it is also a factor of the way MTV's schedule works.  For a show like ABDC, there's not much urgency to watch premiere episodes on Wednesday nights until the very end of the season.  Since MTV runs marathons of the past weeks' episodes leading up to new episodes and on weekends, viewers don't need to tune in during primetime until the end of the season.  So although ABDC's numbers are down from this time last year, in February 2009 MTV was airing episodes from much later in that season, which premiered in January.

THE BURIED LIFE, airing Monday nights, had a respectable first season, ranking as the 5th most watched program on the network in February.  The inspirational series features four guys traveling around the U.S. accomplishing their bucket list and helping others do the same.  It is the poster child of where MTV has announced it is heading: positive, feel-good content.  MY LIFE AS LIZ, the series airing after THE BURIED LIFE, has been described as the "sleeper hit" for MTV.  Even at it's later slot, it does slightly better the rest of the night and the finale had a series high audience recorded. The freshman series is MTV's attempt at testing the scripted content waters.  The show is kind of scripted, but the way it's filmed it feels like a reality show.  Neither Monday night series reached the female audience held by THE CITY in February 2009.  The night was down 25% among females, but even among males.  Although nothing has yet been announced, there are rumors of a second season for both Monday night series.

The return of 16 PREGNANT did well, improving the Tuesday night audience significantly from last year for MTV.  While the latest season of REAL WORLD(DC) began on an upswing, but is now down from this time last year in all demos.  This has been true of the last couple of seasons of MTV's longest running series.  Although it's not setting ratings records, it's still a pretty reliable program.  New Orleans is the next season stop for the show.

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 THE HILLS) don't necessary have anything 'musical' about them.  Often music is used to convey emotions and new bands can find their big break when one of their songs debuts on an MTV show. 

In 2009, MTV announced a shift in their programming.  They have begun to look for more positive and optimistic programs for the "Millennial" generation.  According to a recent press release, "Millennials have a great sense of optimism and are filled with a 'can-do' spirit that's infused into all areas of their lives."  Some of their new programs feature teens overcoming obstacles and helping make a difference in the world.  MTV also continues to invest in specials, especially live events, which is what brings the network the most buzz.  Also, the network, which previously featured mostly reality programming, has been investing in scripted series and movies.  For MTV, perhaps more than any other network, an interactive component is very important for programs to resonate with the audience.

Pitching to MTV is always tricky because they're never looking for something they already have.  In a recent interview, Tony DiSanto, President of Programming and Development explained "We're always looking for what's not on our air or, really, what's not on other networks. We really want to be 'disruptive': when you're flipping through the channels you're forced to stop on MTV, either through a really loud concept or an execution, approach or attitude. We really like to go left when everybody else goes right."

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