When MTV celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2011 it was still the world's biggest entertainment brand as well as the most widely distributed television network, reaching almost 700m households in over 160 countries around the globe. By then, though, it had already passed its peak. Parent company Viacom was wrestling to halt a steady decline in viewing figures by shifting the main focus of the channel away from the music videos with which it first made its name towards reality and lifestyle programming aimed at a teenage and 20s audience. Early fly-on-the-wall experiment 'The Real World' paved the way for a flood of similar shows like 'Jersey Shore' (and its regional equivalents, like the UK's 'Geordie Shore'), 'Catfish', 'Teen Mom' and 'Are You The One?'. Several of these shows, or their spin-offs, are still running: 'The Real World's 33rd season launched in 2019, while 'Jersey Shore Family Vacation' was the channel's top-rated series in 2020, with an average audience of netween 1.2m and 1.3m viewers. Real World spin-off 'The Challenge' is is biggest recent hit. Nevertheless, audiences are not what they once were. The flagship 'MTV Music Video Awards' annual concert and awards show had an all-time low of 6.4m US viewers in 2020; half what it achieved a decade earlier. Yet whatever the future holds for MTV it has already secured its place in media's hall of fame. The channel's achievements are considerable. It completely transformed the nature of popular music during the 1980s and 1990s. It is also one of only a handful of media properties of recent years which has transcended its original format to become something close to a lifestyle brand. According to consultancy Interbrand, MTV is still one of the world's most valuable individual media brands (though it has slipped to second place behind Discovery Channel). Yet it began as simply a cheap way of filling a dead slot in a regional US cable system. How did it manage to come so far? And perhaps more importantly, how much further does it have left to go, now that it competes with even more nimble online rivals? The channel still has immense global coverage, reaching over 420m households in 180m countries. Yet actual viewing figures are still falling. In the US in 2019, the channel as a whole attracted an average daily audience of 607,000 viewers, down 8% on the year before, and only just inside the Top 30 cable channels. Ten years earlier it was one of the Top Ten. It was the #15 ranked US network among 18-49 viewers, with an average of 393,000 viewers in that demographic. Chris McCarthy is now president of the entertainment & youth division of ViacomCBS which comprises MTV, its various spin-off channels, CMT, VH-1 and Logo. MTV is partnered within Viacom by a collection of other significant cable strands, not least Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET.
Capsule checked 26th November 2020
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Adbrands Weekly Update 3rd Sept 2015: Ads of the Week "Tagline Here". MTV broke this totally weird and utterly cool spot for itself by director Benjamin Dickerson during the VMAs last weekend (and it was a lot nicer to look at than Miley Cyrus's tongue). Is it an ad? Or a parody of an ad? Who knows, but it's hypnotically awesome, and features a succession of extraordinary images that will bury themselves in your brain for the rest of this week.
Adbrands Weekly Update 5th Mar 2015: Viacom announced plans to take on streaming services Spotify and Deezer with two new digital music and video services branded under its widely recognised MTV brand. MTV Trax launches in the UK in a partnership with local mobile provider O2, and offers a daily selection of the 100 hottest music tracks as selected by MTV staff, downloaded automatically to users' phones overnight for a subscription of just £1 per month. MTV Play is a similar concept for music videos, and is being tested in selected European markets including Germany.
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