MTV's Young Viewers: Still Finicky, But Now With More Options

Big double-digit rating declines at MTV? I've heard that story before -- about a decade ago. Should be we worried that viewers aged 12-24 will have nothing to watch on TV -- in a lean-back position?

During its hot-growing period back in the early ‘90s, this might been a lesser concern for MTV. Back then -- before the real Internet started up, when mobile real-time devices weren't even a dream for executives -- there was little worry.  After all, there were virtually no other places for young viewers to go, and therefore no other places where TV advertisers could hit these key soon-to-be-heavier-spending consumers.

Viacom's strategy was simple back then -- and even today. Bring them in early with the likes of Nickelodeon. Hand them off to MTV when they get older, and then -- tacking on more years -- see them on Comedy Central, VH1 and Spike.



Even back then, MTV had some dramatic starts and stops when it came to ratings growth -- as well as issues with Nielsen over calculating the amounts of young viewers it pulled in.

For MTV's recent ratings growth, you could tout "Jersey Shore" for sure, and, somewhat less, its "Teen Mom" franchise. Now that "Shore" is getting somewhat lower results -- as well as ending its run after this season -- MTV finds itself in another reloading, new development period.

But this is nothing unusual. Typically, MTV continues to understand how to react with quicker down-and-up periods than older-skewing networks. Think of the morning-after periods when the likes of "The Hills," "The Osbournes,","Punk'd" and "Beavis & Butt-head" had seen better days.

Other young-skewing networks  -- like the CW -- have also seen difficult periods. But CW's mostly scripted shows and young female viewers have a different engagement process. Now, through stronger efforts in promoting and showing its episodes online -- as well as striking a potentially lucrative library Netflix deal -- CW touts a different kind of TV financial model.

Still, the type of short-term young viewer attention MTV had to deal with in the early-to-mid-‘90s is now increasingly tougher to hurdle, especially with today’s still-growing array of  digital media competition. All that makes media analyst Todd Juenger of Bernstein Securities observe that potential investors in Viacom perhaps need to be more cautious.

Media research tells you young consumers aren't abandoning TV; some studies even say that their TV viewership continues to grow. So, it isn't that the audience for MTV's mostly reality-based programming is looking for an excuse to abandon cable altogether. Just give them some new lean-back stuff -- like "Jersey Shore" with its out-of-the-blue controversial themes -- and they'll come.

So long "Jersey Shore." Hello, "Pocono Hills"?



1 comment about "MTV's Young Viewers: Still Finicky, But Now With More Options ".
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  1. Troy Turner from Fans United Against ABC, October 28, 2012 at 4:06 p.m.

    Perhaps MTV should go back to its roots, and start showing MUSIC again. The young'uns would see this as new programming, and then who knows? It's a thought...

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