MuchMusic to Debut Interactive Lineup

In an attempt to use interactivity to differentiate itself from music juggernaut MTV: Music Television, MuchMusic USA will launch several multiplatform, interactive music series that tie in with its soon-to-be launched Internet site.

The shows will allow consumers to participate in nearly all facets of MuchMusic's on-air presentation. Viewers will be able to program music videos or even become on-air video jockeys.

By allowing viewers to weigh in on its technically upgraded Web site,, MuchMusic hopes to reach the young, musically oriented viewers whom MTV has disenfranchised by de-emphasizing its music-video programming, according to MuchMusic acting general manager Nora Ryan.

For its part, MTV Networks Inc. has been working on a convergence project called MTV360 that is designed to drive music fans between MTV, MTV2 and its Website,

Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. purchased full ownership of MuchMusic USA from CHUM Ltd. last July. It presently has 14 million subscribers and is expected to reach 20 million by year-end.

Ryan hopes MuchMusic's aggressive push toward interactive programming will help the network gain additional carriage as operators roll out digital boxes. The network has invested several million dollars to develop a Web site that will facilitate more interactivity for viewers and provide operators with a marketing platform for cable-modem service.

MuchMusic will help operators and advertisers attract teenagers and young adults, 74 percent of whom are interested in an all-music channel, said Ryan.

"Young adults want to see more music videos and want to be kept up to date about music news," she said. "We are true to the music and this format will help operators expose viewers to the value of high-speed modems and help sell digital products into the home."

One non-MuchMusic affiliate, who wished to remain anonymous, said music services that offer interactive programming and Web content are welcome as systems roll out digital boxes.

"We'll take a close look at anything that we can use to help market our digital services, particularly to teens," the operator executive said.

This month, MuchMusic will introduce four new daily strip programs that carry the network's interactive message.

is a 30-minute show that allows viewers to voice their opinions on the music of today. The network will upload video clips from several viewers offering their opinions on the hits. Viewers can log their own opinions of each "tastemaker" and can vote out one or more each week, MuchMusic vice president of programming Norman Schoenfeld said.

The 90-minute Oven Fresh
will help viewers shape the channel's regular on-air rotation through the daily online selection of the best new music videos across various genres. Viewers can sample the videos online and vote to "keep it" or "lose it." MuchMusic will add the video that receives the most positive responses to its rotation.

Mixtape Masterpiece, a 60-minute program, will afford watchers a chance to create a video mix that matches a weekly theme or question. Viewers can go online and upload a personal video explaining why they chose various cuts, Ryan said.

Viewers can report on musical trends from the streets, clubs and underground gatherings on Random Intelligence. The 30-minute show allows viewers to upload reports on the industry from wherever they find sounds that they want to share.

A fifth show, Viewer Made Videos, will afford viewers a chance to make a video online that could air on the network.

The video with the most votes from viewers goes into regular on-air rotation. The show is expected to bow sometime this summer.

Ryan said the network hopes to take advantage of viewers' interest in communicating with each other, made popular by Napster Inc.'s music file-sharing technology.

"Napster was peer-to-peer, but it was missing the entertainment value that television brings," she said. "The viewer is the voice of this channel, not the network executives."

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.