MTV Analysis - October 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 / October 2010 vs. October 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 posted record stats for October, right on the heels of last month's dominating numbers.  Virtually every timeslot produced marked increases from last year's ratings in each demographic.  Thursday nights - which featured at least a two hour block of JERSEY SHORE - boasted the most impressive boost in viewership: a staggering 486% rise in females aged 18-49.  Likewise, the greatest increase in males aged 18-49 occurred on Thursday. MTV's Thursday night lineup represents a shift in the network's programming.  Last year's programming leaned heavily on a variety of half-hour shows.  In contrast, this year's October lineup was dedicated to more recurrent, longer shows.   Throughout the month, MTV's lineup was dominated by JERSEY SHORE and TEEN MOM - suggesting that demos were more attracted to an hour-long, reality based format.  The second runs of hour-long shows also did comparatively better with MTV's audience.

MTV's reliance on a small core of dramatic reality shows has proven a successful formula for the network.  This month MTV concentrated on placing shows with more inter-personal, emotional appeal (unlike male-oriented FANTASY FACTORY, NITRO CIRCUS, and PRANKED) in primetime slots.  The unprecedented rise in female viewership is largely a result of this shift toward narrative storytelling.

Along with Thursday nights, Tuesday produced impressive numbers in both male (88% increase) and female (100% increase) demographics.  Tuesday nights featured a two-hour block of TEEN MOM - the network's highest rated program for the month of October.

16 AND PREGNANT and RW/RR claimed the third and fourth highest ratings respectively.  The premiere of season "2-B" of 16 AND PREGNANT enjoyed strong numbers on October 26th, as did an encore presentation the following day. This season of PREGNANT has surpassed the ratings of its predecessor and continues to be a mammoth hit.  These high ratings suggest that 16 AND PREGNANT and its spinoff TEEN MOM will remain an important tandem for MTV.  Some of the two shows' success can be attributed to the drama that swirls around its characters off-screen. TEEN MOM lends itself to online extras like extended scenes and photos of the characters making it easy for the audience to monitor the 'stars' online. Though not as outrageous as the stars of JERSEY SHORE, the characters in TEEN MOM have succeeded in getting the attention of the tabloids.  Their stories continue off screen are are covered extensively by the media.  With this much extra attention the audience is bound to stay tuned from season to season as they feel compelled to find out what happens next.


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.  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. 

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."  Some of their new programs feature teens overcoming obstacles and helping make a difference in the world.  MTV also continues to invest in specials, especially live events, which is what brings the network the most buzz.  Also, the network, which previously featured mostly reality programming, has been investing in scripted series and movies.  For MTV, perhaps more than any other network, an interactive component is very important for programs to resonate with the audience.

The success of 16 AND PREGNANT and TEEN MOM predicts an increase in similar programming for MTV's primetime.  This is supported by MTV's former programming president Tony Disanto: "This generation wants their reality more 'real' which led us to hits like "Ëœ16 AND PREGNANT,' JERSEY SHORE,' and TEEN MOM' But they also expect creative diversity from us. MTV's baseline of new reality hits, along with reinvigorated returning franchises like "ËœTHE REAL WORLD' have given us the foundation to grow a diverse slate that includes animation, comedy, daily live programming and our big priority - scripted." MTV is expected to build off the foundation of TEEN MOM and 16 AND PREGNANT with similar programming.  Currently, MTV's bread and butter are reality television. Despite JERSEY SHORE'S success, MTV plans to move in a more positive, affirming direction.  This slight shift in direction caters to both the appetite of "Millennials" as well as advertisers' fear of JERSEY SHORE consumer backlash.  However, the network is also extremely focused upon expanding its repertoire with a slew of upcoming scripted shows.

Although the former president of programming has recently vacated his position, his replacements - David Janollari and Chris Linn - are expected to "continue [MTV's] momentum and help take MTV into its next wave of reinvention."  MTV will undoubtedly seek out both scripted and non-scripted programs that deliver characters whose appeal transcends multiple seasons as well as the programs themselves.

Pitching to MTV is always tricky because they're never looking for something they already have.  Former President of Programming and Development explained "We're always looking for what's not on our air or, really, what's not on other networks. We really want to be 'disruptive': when you're flipping through the channels you're forced to stop on MTV, either through a really loud concept or an execution, approach or attitude. We really like to go left when everybody else goes right."