MTV Analysis - May 2011


* 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 / May 2011 vs. May 2010 (% Change)

Source: The Nielsen Company's National Television Audience Sample

The month of May was a mixed bag for MTV; while yearly ratings were significantly improved, the network once again suffered a month-to-month drop off.  MTV has been limping along without its crutches JERSEY SHORE and TEEN MOM for a few months now.  Both shows will be returning with new seasons this summer – a moment eagerly awaited by MTV execs.

For now, however, MTV is bobbing along with the help of REAL WORLD 25 and the third season of 16 AND PREGNANT.  These tried and true hits served the network well, delivering MTV’s best and second-best numbers respectively.

Thanks in part to airings of REAL WORLD, primetime Wednesdays were the strongest night of the week for MTV.  The series attracted a decent amount of men aged 18-49 but really shined with young women of the same age demo.  Impressive female viewership catapulted two premiere episodes of WORLD into the top two telecast spots for the month.  Additionally, two other WORLD episodes found their way into the top ten slots for the month.

On Tuesday nights, 16 AND PREGNANT put up a strong showing, attracting a large and heavily female-skewing audience.  While PREGNANT has since been eclipsed by spinoff TEEN MOM, the show still controls a rabid fan-base.  Among women aged 18-49, Tuesday nights were the biggest for MTV due to a solid three-hour block of the show.  Two Tuesday premieres of the show managed to claim the third and fourth highest rated telecasts.  Yet despite the strength of 16 AND PREGNANT’S female audience, it has an anemic interest among men. MTV is scouring for a show –like JERSEY SHORE – that has a universal appeal between both genders.  Although Tuesdays were a dominant night for the network, women 18-49 were still down 25%, demonstrating the popularity of last year’s final season of THE HILLS.

In contrast to this percentage dip, Thursdays exploded compared to last year: up a full 150%.  Thursdays were bolstered by the sixth season of AMERICA’S BEST DANCE CREW. DANCE was the third best program for the network and did a better job at bridging the gender gap.  Overall, Thursdays proved to be the second strongest night for MTV.

ROB DYRDEK’S FANTASY FACTORY was the only program that pulled in a larger male audience.  Twice as many men aged 18-49 tuned in for the show than their female counterpart.

While the middle of the week (Tuesdays through Thursdays) was strong for MTV, the other nights were less impressive.  Fridays were comprised of an assortment of various re-runs including AMERICA’S BEST DANCE CREW as well a movie.  Saturdays, which primarily featured old episodes of 16 AND PREGNANT were also weak.  Sundays coasted along with similar ratings, with re-run episodes of DANCE failing to attract a large audience.


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 TEEN MOM) don’t necessarily have anything technically musical about them.

Despite MTV’s best efforts to gravitate away from reality programming, the platform is simply too successful to dump.   Recently, an MTV programmer contacted us to report that, “With our recent hits like TEEN MOM and JERSEY SHORE, we find that our audience wants to see some of their own lives reflected in the programs they watch.” Look for new reality shows to have a similar flavor to MTV’s most popular franchises.  One example of an upcoming show with strong ties to past programming is a starring vehicle for JERSEY SHORE favorite Pauly D.

MTV continues to eye new material that fits with their present repertoire of programs. The network’s youthful audience enjoys seeing on-screen characters that relate in some way to their own lives.  While reality TV has been the preferred medium in recent years, MTV is focused on delivering more scripted teenage drama.

MTV’s vision of a full-blown network overhaul met its first major defeat with the cancellation of the disappointing SKINS.  MTV execs expected the show (whose previous incarnation was a massive hit abroad) to spearhead the network’s transition into a new era of programming. Despite the failure of this initial foray, MTV remains committed to the scripted genre.

“The scripted presence of our network is a very important part of our plan,” said David Janollari, President of Programming. “And we’re in it for the long run.”

Scripted concepts on the horizon include THE INBETWEENERS, TEEN WOLF, and LOST IN THE WOODS.  Descriptions for each of these may be found in the “Development” section of our MTV Analysis. The network is also reviving two familiar faces – BEAVIS AND BUTTHEAD – as it looks to incorporate new animated shows into its schedule.

Janollari freely admits that the transition process is an uncertain entity: “The whole introduction of scripted programming to the MTV slate is very new. We’re one step at a time, brick-by-brick building its presence. We believe it will be very embraced by our audience.”

MTV’s General Manager, Stephen Friedman explains this ambitious transition: “We held on to Generation X a little too long, and our programming reflected that.  MTV needs to shed its skin every three years.  We had to ask ourselves: what does this younger audience want? And the answer was brutal honesty.”

In a recent interview Janollari mentioned that 12 to 24-year-olds are the network’s vital demo and that, “Our mantra is to diversify the landscape of the network. We want to offer a multitude of genres to our audience. We believe that our core audience – the millennial generation – watches all kinds of entertainment: scripted comedies, scripted dramas, animation and reality shows. They watch movies; they watch entertainment on the Internet. Our idea is to offer original series programming in what ever form it takes to this audience with the core brand of DNA of what’s relevant to their lives; what resonating with the millennial viewers today.