MTV Analysis - March 2011

Publish date:


* Bold denotes programming change


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.


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





Monday 8-11pm





Tuesday 8-11pm





Wednesday 8-11pm





Thursday 8-11pm





Friday 8-11pm





Saturday 8-11pm





Sunday 8-11pm





MTWTFSS 8-11pm





Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

March completed a massive first quarter for MTV. The network, which has enjoyed an impressive upswing for some time now, posted increased Q1 numbers for the fifth consecutive time.

Partial credit goes to MTV’s biggest show ever – the JERSEY SHORE – which was in the homestretch of its third season.  March was a relatively cool month for the show.  Still, “relatively cool” for the SHORE is head and shoulders above just about anything on television.

All told, SHORE was the second biggest draw for the network, finishing just behind TEEN MOM 2.   The show did not perform as well as it had the previous two months and especially stumbled the week before the finale.  Nonetheless, SHORE was able to rebound for the final episode despite falling short of season three highs.  In fact, the season finale – which aired the last week of March – beat out every other telecast on both broadcast and cable except AMERICAN IDOL.

While SHORE was technically ranked behind MOM, its four premiere telecasts were the highest rated for the network. Women in the coveted 18-49 age bracket contributed the most to these high numbers.  SHORE, just like its network, has always appealed more to young women than any other demo.  Regardless of whether SHORE spikes or slides in the ratings, the ratio of male to female viewership is always consistent.

Despite this, male viewership exploded compared to March 2010.  A whopping 240% more men tuned in for Thursday premieres of JERSEY SHORE.  Last year AMERICA’S BEST DANCE CREW held the 10PM time slot – a show notoriously weak among men.

Bolstered by TEEN MOM, Tuesdays were the second biggest night for the network.  Unsurprisingly, the ratings were very female-skewing – almost four times more women tuned in than men.  Regardless, female viewership is strong enough to deliver considerable ratings and the demo is only growing.  And while male viewership pales in comparison, there was a significant increase in month-to-month ratings among men.  Also, 40% more men tuned in for March’s TEEN MOM than they did for the similar 16 AND PREGNANT last year.

Along with MOM and SHORE, REAL WORLD helped make the 10PM time slot sheer gold for MTV.  As the network’s third largest show for the month, REAL WORLD managed to pull in a much more evenly distributed gender ratio.  While premiere episodes of WORLD couldn’t quite match up to rerun episodes of SHORE, the show still ranks in the top 10 original cable shows.

In addition to REAL WORLD, Wednesdays derived impressive numbers from I USED TO BE FAT.

SKINS contributed the fourth best numbers for the network.  While the show has been a disappointment for the network, Mondays were up 13% overall from last year.  Still, Mondays – which featured premiere episodes of the show – produced the only stat that was remotely negative: an 18% dip among women aged 18 to 49.

Last year SKINS’ spot was filled with either TRUE LIFE or THE BURIED LIFE. This suggests that young women prefer watching actual dramatic situations rather than scripted scenarios.

Friday’s movie presentation performed well for the network, drawing in equal numbers of men and women.  The month’s movies included DON’T BE A MENACE, JEEPERS CREEPERS, and GARDEN STATE.

Both Saturday and Sunday predominantly featured re-run episodes of SHORE.  The programming choice was a safe bet for the network and yielded strong gains among all-important demos.


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."