MTV Ramps Up Reality

 The economy may be struggling, but MTV isn’t cutting back its production of original content — in fact, it’s ramping up an unprecedented amount of reality content to launch over the next few months.

Hoping to boost viewership while thwarting the negative ratings effects of DVR time-shifting, the network is expanding its original programming hours on Sunday nights in February as part of its overall strategy to ramp up on new content, according to MTV executive vice president of series development and programming Tony DiSanto.

“MTV is a 24-hour network, and in this DVR age — particularly with our viewers who are early adapters to a lot of technology — DVRs make a dent with regards to repeats, so how do you offset that? You offset that with more content,” DiSanto told Multichannel News. “What we’re really doing is ramping up development and production exponentially so that we can have a lot more original content on our air.”

In January alone, the network launched several new reality shows, such as Bromance, The City and Daddy’s Girls — the latter two were renewed last week — and returned several existing shows, such as The Real World and America’s Best Dance Crew. On deck are several other shows, including the Feb. 10 debut of T.I.’s Road to Redemption: 45 Days to Go, which follows the controversial rapper’s remaining days prior to beginning a March prison stint for a felony gun-possession conviction, and the series greenlighting of Cribs spinoff Teen Cribs, which aired as a Jan. 17 special.

Beginning Feb. 8 at 9 p.m. the network will expand its Sunday lineup by one hour with the launch of four new series: Nitro Circus, a reality series which follows the daredevil-ish exploits of freestyle motocross rider Travis Pastrana; Rob Dydrek’s Fantasy Factory, featuring the popular skateboarder; The CollegeHumor Show, based on the popular Web site of the same name; and How’s Your News?, based on a Matt Stone and Trey Parker film of the same name which follows a team of disabled reporters who drive across America covering the news.

“Because we have so much great content coming, we really want to get it out there; and at the same time, we think there’s some opportunities to expand into some new slots,” said DiSanto. “It’s really that we have great content — I don’t want to hold them for slots, but I want to get them on the air, and I think there’s a great opportunity there to put things on earlier and get an audience in different slots.”

MTV is hoping the new content will turn around the fortunes of the young adult-targeted network. MTV in January 2009 posted a 13% decline in household primetime ratings, and an 11% decline among viewers 18 to 49.

However, the network reported a 12% total-day increase for the first three weeks of first-quarter 2009 in its core 12 to 34 demo (1.19 rating) compared to fourth-quarter 2008, and that ratings for its weekly 10 p.m. “10 Spot” original-programming block through the first three weeks of 2009 are up 13% (1.34 rating), compared to the 1.19 rating posted in December 2008 for the same time period.

DiSanto said the recent slate of original programming is just the beginning for the network: On tap are new animation shows, new reality dramas, and a reality musical drama.

“I think what we have planned is fantastic, very different, very unique, and very MTV,” DiSanto said.

R. Thomas Umstead

R. Thomas Umstead serves as senior content producer, programming for Multichannel News, Broadcasting + Cable and Next TV. During his more than 30-year career as a print and online journalist, Umstead has written articles on a variety of subjects ranging from TV technology, marketing and sports production to content distribution and development. He has provided expert commentary on television issues and trends for such TV, print, radio and streaming outlets as Fox News, CNBC, the Today show, USA Today, The New York Times and National Public Radio. Umstead has also filmed, produced and edited more than 100 original video interviews, profiles and news reports featuring key cable television executives as well as entertainers and celebrity personalities.