MTV Analysis - July 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 / July 2011 vs. July 2010 (% Change)





Monday 8-11pm





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MTWTFSS 8-11pm





Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

Following a nine-month drought, July saw the return of TEEN MOM.  The hotly anticipated phenomenon achieved near identical numbers to the previous season’s premiere.  MOM also secured the top four telecast spots for the month, confirming the show’s continued appeal.

Coming as a shock to no one, MOM maintained a highly female-skewing audience: roughly three times as many women tuned in throughout July as men.  Just as with seasons past, women aged 18-49 were the prime demographic.  After a significant, though not unprecedented drop following the premiere, the ratings have leveled out for the show.  It remains to be seen if MOM can match it’s impressive season two closing numbers.  Regardless, the show is off to another strong start: it was consistently the top cable program for Tuesday nights throughout July.  All told, Tuesday’s were easily the strongest night of the week, and scored especially high among women aged 18-49.

Meanwhile, JERSEY SHORE fanatics were placated with another round of reruns as they eagerly awaited August’s season 4 premiere.  While individual episodes of JERSEY SHORE (Season 3) paled in comparison to TEEN MOM, the collective three airings of SHORE served as MTV’s top monthly program.  July’s schedule was also sprinkled with the first two SHORE seasons as well as a special entitled “From the First Fist Pump.”  Along with TEEN MOM, the various JERSEY SHORE seasons filled out the top six programs for the month.  Additionally, MOM and SHORE cooperatively owned over half of MTV’s top programs per telecast.

On Mondays, TEEN WOLF fared well – certainly outstripping MTV’s failed scripted experiment SKINS.  The size of WOLF’S female audience has remained unchanged from June while its male viewership has gained.  In fact, men aged 18-49 have pulled even with the young female demo.  Only time will tell if WOLF can carry this momentum into the recently ordered second season.

On Wednesdays, THE CHALLENGE helped boost the night’s primetime ratings to a second place finish behind Tuesday.  THE CHALLENGE performed well with young men and even better among women.

AWKWARD – the latest addition to MTV’s bold foray into scripted television – was the biggest question mark coming into the month.   The comedy, which deals with a teenage social outcast, has proven much more popular than its main character – prompting an early renewal.

In the wake of AKWWARD and TEEN WOLF’S success, MTV decided to cancel scripted comedy, THE HARD TIMES OF RJ BERGER.  This move makes room for the current scripted programs as well as a number of queued series to come.


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.