MTV's No-Commercial Ratings Offers: Engagement And Targeted Messaging

The biggest question for media buyers concerning MTV's moves in the coming weeks: Is this enough?

MTV made deals with IAG Research for engagement data, and is partnering with Visible World to allow marketers to target different viewers with different messaging.  Giving marketers these new metrics seems to deflect: MTV's obvious position -- somewhat against media buyers' desires -- of doing upfront deals based on the now-ancient method of program ratings.

With the rest of the industry virtually in sync in offering commercial ratings guarantees to advertisers, MTV has gone in the other direction. All because MTV and other young-skewing networks have the worst retention for viewers going from program content to commercials. According to some media agencies, that retention drops anywhere from 12% to 15%.

For MTV that would mean roughly charging advertising 12% to 15% more for those cute and key 12-24 and 12-34 demographics than it did a year ago.

But those rates would be too much for advertisers to bear, with the limbo negotiation line being the double-digit range. Anything above 10% is virtually forbidden.

MTV is betting -- as it did about a decade and a half ago -- that marketers won't be able to live without MTV and those young audiences. MTV's problem is that the market has changed. There are other digital broadband and Internet avenues -- albeit still not still as strong as TV.

One wonders whether this will be enough for the likes of media agency OMD in renewing its usual $250 million annual deal with the network group, all for their young-skewing autos, fast foods and movies clients. Will program ratings promises -- along with engagement guarantees and Visible World target messaging -- make the grade?

And at what rate? Maybe MTV won't be getting those 12% to 15% rises. With program ratings guarantees, it would only need to grab smaller 8% to 9% gains -- far more easy for marketers to stomach.

For MTV competitors, there is already a fire in the belly:  MySpace is looking to amp up its video offering under the name MySpaceTV. Call it MSTV, one letter more than MTV. Better hurry, MTV.