MTV Analysis - August 2011

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* 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 / August 2011 vs. August 2010 (% Change)





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Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

This August, JERSEY SHORE returned with a vengeance, garnering some of its highest ratings ever.  No other MTV show even came close to the dominance of the SHORE’S premieres on Thursday nights.

Primetime Thursdays were up nearly 400% compared to last month and yearly household averages gained 21%.  At the same time last year, MTV was airing the second season of the SHORE – revealing that interest in the show is only rising.   The show is popular with both men and women aged 18-49 but remains strongly female skewing.

Although the SHORE soundly held the top four telecasts of the month, TEEN MOM fared impressively during the second month of its third season.  Tuesday nights –which featured premiere episodes of MOM – were particularly well received.  Once again, the night found its strongest audience among young women.  Similar to SHORE, MOM was competing with its own second season numbers.  And like SHORE, MOM demonstrated year-to-year growth among all main demographics.  While a rerun episode of SHORE’S third season managed to outperform three new episodes of MOM, the show was a very strong number two.

Sundays were the second strongest night of the week thanks to a combination of SHORE, MOM, and reruns of MTV’s new scripted comedy AWKWARD.  The last Sunday of the month was a monster for the network: a special episode of SHORE, a VMA preshow, and the actual VMAS composed the top three basic cable programs of the night.

While new show AWKWARD isn’t in the same league as MTV’s heavy hitters, it continues to gain traction with critics and viewers alike.  Discounting the failure of SKINS, AWKWARD stands as another addition to MTV’s collection of impressive scripted programming.

Fellow scripted program TEEN WOLF closed out strong with the finale of its first season.  The finale managed to crack MTV’s top 20 telecasts – a list otherwise fully comprised of the vaunted SHORE, MOM, and CHALLENGE: RIVALS.

Following Tuesday nights (MOM) and Thursday (SHORE), Wednesdays were the third biggest night of the week thanks in part to CHALLENGE.


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.

MTV’s vision of a full-blown network overhaul met its first major defeat with the cancellation of the disappointing SKINS.  MTV execs expected the show (whose previous incarnation was a massive hit abroad) to spearhead the network’s transition into a new era of programming. Despite the failure of this initial foray, MTV remains committed to the scripted genre.

“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 and LOST IN THE WOODS.  Descriptions for 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.

Janollari freely admits that the transition process is an uncertain entity: “The whole introduction of scripted programming to the MTV slate is very new. We’re one step at a time, brick-by-brick building its presence. We believe it will be very embraced by our audience.”

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.”

In a recent interview Janollari mentioned that 12 to 24-year-olds are the network’s vital demo and that, “Our mantra is to diversify the landscape of the network. We want to offer a multitude of genres to our audience. We believe that our core audience – the millennial generation – watches all kinds of entertainment: scripted comedies, scripted dramas, animation and reality shows. They watch movies; they watch entertainment on the Internet. Our idea is to offer original series programming in what ever form it takes to this audience with the core brand of DNA of what’s relevant to their lives; what resonating with the millennial viewers today.