MTV Analysis - November 2009



MTV Primetime Schedule


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.  Lately, they've been occasionally filling gaps by showing feature films 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 old reliables like THE HILLS and THE REAL WORLD at 10pm and new, untested content either right before or at 10:30 or 11pm.


Live Primetime Ratings Comparison / November 2009 vs. November 2008  (% 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

Not a lot of new programming and less viewership on its episode premiers meant that MTV was down in November.  To satisfy gaps in the schedule, MTV tried something new.  It aired Comedy Central  animated series, SOUTH PARK, Monday through Saturday from 8-9pm.  Viewership was just above average which, for an acquired program, it means the strategy was successful.  It also attracted an older male audience: M25-54 were up 25%, the only demographic up in November as compared to last year.  SOUTH PARK is also a good measure of how the new animated series MTV has in development will do and perhaps what MTV will be looking to add to the schedule in the future.

In other acquisitions news, the "Free Movie of the Week" segment that started on Friday nights taking up one primetime hour, now takes up 4 primetime hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  The movies vary from Jackass: The Movie to Kill Bill Volume 2, yet they continue to be a bright spot on the schedule especially among men.  Although these recent acquisitions have worked, MTV is careful not to lose its place as a channel with new original content.

WORLD'S STRICTEST PARENTS aired in November on Thursdays for 2 hours.  The series follows teens for a period of time when they  are sent to live with one family of very strict parents because of behavioral problems in their own home.  The numbers were below average for the network and on average lost viewership from its SOUTH PARK lead-in.  This is another example for MTV that in primetime, reality programs with a story arc, like THE HILLS, THE CHALLENGES and TEEN MOM do a lot better than realities with self-contained episodes like TRUE LIFE and WORLD'S STRICTEST PARENTS.

Although November was a quiet month for MTV with not a lot of new programs and mediocre ratings, things are sure to pick up in December with the premiere of controversial series JERSEY SHORE and 16 AND PREGNANT spin-off TEEN MOM.


MTV is undoubtedly one of the most recognized brands in the cable industry.  What began as a music network has exploded into a haven for well-developed, young-skewing, long-form programming.

Much of MTV's shows revolve around the ages of the viewers they target - from teens to young adults.  There is a distinct music flavor to the network, even when the shows (like THE REAL WORLD or THE HILLS) don't necessary have anything "musical" about them.  Often music is used to convey emotions and new bands can find their big break when one of their songs debuts on an MTV show.  One visit to their website confirms it - music is definitely first at MTV, and long-form programming secondary.

MTV has announced a shift in their programming which will affect their future programming.  According to a recent article in TV Week, "MTV's newer shows are aimed at a new generation, the Millennials."

"'There's a palpable generational shift in attitudes that's informing a new point of view as we develop content and the brand. The change in our audience is reflected in new formats, tonal voices and storytelling cadence,' said Tony DiSanto, head of programming for MTV. 'Millennials have a great sense of optimism and are filled with a "Ëœcan-do' spirit that's infused into all areas of their lives. Just as we've shifted with our audience in the past, we're now embracing a new brand filter ... one that inspires us to break boundaries, bust our mold and reinvent.'" (TV Week)

To compliment MTV's shift in content, they are also going through major restructuring in staff.  President of Entertainment, Brian Graden will leave the network when his contract expires at the end of the year.  MTV has also announced that it will lay off 50 staff members, many in their development and programming departments.  To CableU this clearly signals that the network will need to work with bigger production companies who will be expected to take a bigger role in development, now that less of it will be done in house.  Perhaps they will also consider more acquired programs, as opposed to their longstanding strategy to home grow everything.