MTV Analysis - November 2010

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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 / November 2010 vs. November 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

MTV's powerhouse tandem of JERSEY SHORE and TEEN MOM cleaned house last month, delivering record-breaking numbers for the network.  And while November earned respectable ratings, viewership was bound to pale in comparison.

MTV stocked its primetime schedule with blocks of 16 AND PREGNANT, hedging its success on the shoulders of a proven hit.  This strategy produced a double-edged sword for the network: female viewership rose considerably from last year while male interest took a dive.

Overall, female viewership was up 44% in women aged 18-49 while the ratings for men of the same demo flat-lined at 0%.  This strong female audience allowed for a seamless transition between TEEN MOM and 16 AND PREGNANT – keeping pregnancy based reality TV at the #1 slot.  While the enthusiasm for PREGNANT does not quite match that of its successor, the show – now in its third season – has maintained impressive numbers.

MTV's ratings spiked with women aged 25-54, providing the network with its largest gains of the month.  Sunday nights – which were devoted to 16 AND PREGNANT – skyrocketed 133% with women in that demographic. Last November, Sunday nights were comprised of less focused programming including CRIBS and THE HILLS. The 2010 numbers suggest a feminine appeal that transcends age groups.

On the flip side, the ratings for men of all ages slipped.  Last November the network's schedule was peppered with South Park re-runs – a major draw for male audiences.  Though popular, 16 AND PREGNANT does not possess the same universal appeal that make shows like JERSEY SHORE attractive to both men and women.  For males 18-49, ratings for each night either fell or remained unchanged.

Despite a falter in male viewership in November, MTV has found a winning formula.  The blueprint consists of shows such as TRUE LIFE, TEEN MOM, and 16 AND PREGNANT that depict young adults in stressful or even desperate situations.  These hour-long reality based shows are successful because of the relatability of their characters as well as the media storm that occurs off screen.  The women of TEEN MOM and 16 AND PREGANT have not only become reality stars but tabloid staples as well.  TEEN MOM is already set to return with new episodes in January, only a few months after the finale of season 2.


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." 

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.