Launching MMTV

After years with little distribution, Rainbow Media has set its makeover, MuchMusic USA, leaning on viewers to generate some of the shows.

MuchMusic's new slate, which launches on June 25th, is focused on music videos and viewer-designed music programs. The network hopes to redefine music television by letting viewers make programming decisions through the channel's Web site.

Documentaries, reality programming and game shows dominate the music television, but the music has largely gone missing. MuchMusic's acting General Manager Nora Ryans says the challenge is to strike a balance between real people and entertainment value. "If we lean too much in the direction of high-end entertainment, it might look a little too slick," she says. "If we lean too much towards the unadorned masses, I don't know if that makes good television."

Rainbow launched a U.S. version of the MTV clone in 1994 with Canadian programmer CHUM Group Television. But the network has scrounged for carriage and viewership, in large part because even the U.S. feed was saddled with strict Canadian TV content regulations. Those forced CHUM to load up on Canadian artists unknown or uninteresting to U.S. music fans. MuchMusic had a mere 11.3 million subs at year-end.

But Rainbow bought out CHUM last year and has started customizing the feed for the States. Four original programs will be stripped during the week. Tastemakers is a video block hosted by viewers who weigh in with their opinions on the videos. Oven Fresh
lets viewers select whether videos should be dumped or put into the regular scheduling rotation. Mixtape Masterpiece will air videos that viewers custom build using music clips and graphics the network provides online. The audience will act as stringers for Random Intelligence, which showcases viewers' video of local music scenes. The network also plans to air videos in genre blocks, such as hip-hop or modern rock, beginning in the fall.