This company still hopes you want your MTV -- and maybe a few other cable channels. MTV Networks operates a leading portfolio of cable TV channels anchored by its music video networks MTV, VH1, and CMT (Country Music Television). It operates channels for kids through Nickelodeon, the young-male-oriented Spike TV, Comedy Central, and gay and lesbian channel Logo. Through a total of some 170 branded channels, the company reaches 640 million households in more than 160 countries. MTV Networks also produces movies through MTV Films (in association with sister firm Paramount Pictures) and distributes content online. MTV Networks is a unit of media giant Viacom.
Like other cable TV programmers, MTV Networks follows a segmentation strategy for each of its TV properties, targeting each channel for a specific demographic or interest group. Its flagship MTV network reaches 98 million households and appeals to the 18-34 age group by focusing on popular music videos and reality-based shows such as The Hills, The Real World, and My Super Sweet 16. VH1, meanwhile, skews toward a slightly older and more celebrity-obsessed crowd with shows including The T.O. Show, For the Love of Ray J, Sex Rehab, and its I Want to Work for Diddy 2 series. Comedy Central has found its niche in the 18-49 demographic with hit fake news programs The Daily Show with John Stewart and The Colbert Report.
Parent Viacom depends on its television operations for about 60% of sales, most of that coming from MTV Networks. (The company also operates a handful of channels targeting African American viewers through Black Entertainment Television.) Its TV channels generate revenue primarily through advertising and carriage fees paid by cable system operators such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable. MTV Networks competes for viewers against other large cable portfolios owned and operated by Discovery Communications, NBCUniversal, and Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting System.
While MTV Networks continues to command a significant viewership on television, the company has been troubled by weakness both in ratings and advertising. Its MTV channel in particular suffered a loss of viewers during 2008 at the same time the recession caused advertisers to pull back on spending. The company appointed Stephen Friedman as general manager of the channel to lead a turnaround effort focused on new original programs such as The Buried Life, The City, 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom, and the surprise mega hit Jersey Shore. MTV Networks, along with other divisions of Viacom, also made a number of staff cuts late in 2008 to reduce expenses.
MTV Networks is also expanding beyond television to pull in new revenue and to reach new generations that look for their entertainment online. The company beefed up its flagship website with videos and other content that attracts more than 7.5 million visitors each month. Recent acquisitions have also expanded the unit's online reach; MTV's portfolio of Internet brands includes GameTrailers.com, Spike.com (SPIKE Digital Entertainment) and Shockwave and Atom.com (both run through Atom Entertainment). MTV also has a stake in Rhapsody America, a digital music launched in partnership with media software company RealNetworks. – less