MTV Analysis - December 2010



* 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 / December 2010 vs. December 2009  (% 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

For December, MTV remained on the same trajectory set by the previous month's programming.  Once again, the primetime slot was dominated by premiere and re-run episodes of the hit 16 AND PREGNANT.

Unsurprisingly, MTV's month to month ratings changed about as little as it's programming did.  Across the board, female viewership shot up from the previous year while MTV's male audience responded underwhelmingly.

Overall, male viewers aged 18-49 fell 22% compared to last year's numbers.   Historically, men do not find the drama of teen based pregnancy as alluring as women.  This is supported by the 30% spike in female viewers of the same age demographic.

The appeal of 16 AND PREGNANT among young women is undeniable: nightly programming featuring the show enjoyed an increase in female viewership that ranged between 35 and 83%.  The nights that did not feature 16 AND PREGNANT never managed to scrape up such impressive numbers.  In fact, Thursday nights – which favored a marathon run of PRANKED episodes – plummeted 50% among women.

This lack on interest in PRANKED was tangible from male viewers as well: 40% fewer men tuned in on Thursday nights compared to last year.  While this number is the blackest spot in a sea of negative ratings, it is also enlightening.
Beside 16 AND PREGNANT, THE CHALLENGE: CUTTHROAT performed the strongest for the network. The show's 10PM time slot followed a two hour block of 16 AND PREGNANT and helped make Wednesday a solid night for female viewers.
While males aged 18-49 are hardly scrambling to catch the latest 16 AND PREGNANT, they do prefer it to PRANKED.  This might suggest that men are more attracted to reality television that hits them on emotional level rather than simply shocks or amuses them.  Still, males 18-49 were much more likely to watch SOUTH PARK (which MTV featured in hour blocks almost every night in December '09.)

Premieres of 16 AND PREGNANT were far and away the most successful aspect of MTV's programming for the month of December. Subsequent re-runs of the show fared strongly as well – solidifying a fact that MTV has known for some time: the combination of strong willed teenage girls and severe situations strike a chord with female audiences. With the return of juggernaut JERSEY SHORE next month, look for MTV to shatter records across both demographics.


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 necessarily have anything 'musical' about them.

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.ot;

JERSEY SHORE and TEEN MOM are set to ring in the New Year with debuts of returning seasons in early January.  For now, MTV is very comfortable with the state of their programming as it currently stands.  After November's astronomical ratings, it comes as no surprise that the network is rushing to deliver new episodes of the two shows that have garnered them so much success.  Yet despite MTV's adherence to the old adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," the network is also aware that evolution is the key to relevance.  Expect MTV to stick with tried and true shows while also experimenting with scripted television as well as more "diverse" reality TV.

Newly hired presidents of programming David Janollari and Chris Linn have spoken at length concerning shifts in the overall vision of MTV.  Previous president of programmer endorsed his successor, stating: "He is the perfect fit for this key role in our programming organization, as we put a laser focus on scripted content," said Mr. DiSanto."

MTV's General Manager, Stephen Friedman added, "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."  MTV has already begun its reinvention with a number of scripted shows currently in development.  Unsurprisingly, the scripted shows currently in production revolve around teenagers and young adults thrown into distressing social situations.

"Our mantra is diversification," Janollari. "A diversification of genres is something our audience wants and will embrace and something that we haven't served up in a number of years."

2011 will usher in a new era of MTV: a contemporary vision for a new generation will stand side by side with the old format.  It remains to be seen how things will pan out for this transitioning network.