Internet Video

MTVN Looking to Spread the Laughter

12/06/2004 9:53 AM Eastern

New York -- MTV Networks is exploring spinoffs from Comedy Central, including launching a stand-up network, and it is looking for new opportunities to better target Hispanics and Baby Boomers, officials said Monday.

“The plan for Comedy is to add more screens -- you know, digital channels, beyond joke of the day,” MTVN chairman and CEO Judy McGrath told a gathering of Wall Street analysts. “I think there’s a lot they can do online and in wireless.”

McGrath made her remarks during a lunchtime presentation at the Credit Suisse First Boston Media and Telecom Week conference here.

Comedy Central, a fairly recent addition to MTVN, “doesn’t have a digital platform associated with it,” and its Web site (www.comedycentral.com) “is just beginning,” according to McGrath. So MTVN is trying to build Comedy’s Internet play and looking into wireless.

“And certainly, maybe there’s a stand-up channel in the future,” she added. “I think the brand has such value, largely through Jon Stewart and Dave Chappelle and some other obvious hits, that I think there’s a lot of interest in seeing Comedy Central travel even internationally.”

She continued, “There are some Paramount comedy networks overseas. We’re thinking about rebranding those [as] Comedy Central. They’re sort of early on the curve on that kind of thing.”

In addition to creating new “screens” for Comedy, like a spinoff network, MTVN is also considering bringing some of its international networks to the states or buying a Hispanic-oriented service.

“We’re thinking of bringing some of our MTV International services here to serve some of the diverse populations that exist in pockets of the United States, as well as broadband networks,” MTVN group president Van Toffler told the assembled stock analysts at the CSFB confab.

During their joint presentation, McGrath and Toffler also cited the Hispanic-American market and Boomers as underserved audiences that MTVN is looking to better target, as well as the gay market with Logo, which debuts next year.

“We’re always incubating ideas,” McGrath said. “We tend to look at underserved audiences. We’re very proud of Logo, which we’ll be launching for the gay and lesbian audience. We’re looking at Hispanic Americans. We’ve certainly had tremendous success with Dora [The Explorer] and Diego and Brothers Garcia and some of the things that Nickelodeon folks have put out there. We know that’s the fastest-growing segment in the overall population of the states, and we really want to develop some things there.”

On the Hispanic front, some of the options MTVN is considering are possibly making an acquisition and trying to find ways for its existing cable networks to better serve that demographic.

“Right now, we’re assessing what we have, which is pretty interesting,” McGrath said. “Van’s got MTV Español … In Miami, we’ve got a great team focused on MTV Latin America, which sort of lives the Hispanic-American lifestyle, if you will. We’re involved in looking at potential acquisitions or how we can improve what’s already on our own networks, as we overindex with these audiences on [MTV: Music Television], VH1 and Nickelodeon anyway.”

She continued, “It’s just sort of understanding who this audience’s sort of emerging demographic is and serving them on our current networks and looking at opportunities to build something unique and great for them, even if it’s in digital.”

In particular, Toffler said, MTVN is examining how to serve the portion of the Hispanic-American population made up of second-generation, younger people who are more acculturated and less Spanish-language-oriented.

MTVN is also looking to possibly invest a little bit more in some of its more adult-skewing networks next year, like Comedy. In general, Baby Boomers are of special interest.

“We’re looking at some upscale Boomer opportunities for us, more adult, like Van is an upscale Boomer,” McGrath said. “We’re always looking at opportunities to create something new … We do have an eye for underserved and emerging audiences out there. That’s really one of the fun and the interesting parts of the next couple of years. You’ll see some action.”

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