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MuchMusic USA offers videos without Viacom

Jun 10, 2002  •  Post A Comment

For the past 18 months, MuchMusic USA has been slowly gaining ground as an alternative to established music channels such as VH1 and MTV. The only non-Viacom-owned music cable channel in the country, MuchMusic USA’s mantra of “get online, get a camera and get involved” has resonated with the coveted younger demo that tends to be more technology-savvy.
MuchMusic USA began as a partnership between founding company ChumTV in Canada and Rainbow Media in 1994. Rainbow bought out ChumTV’s 50 percent stake in the channel in 2000 and now wholly owns it. Today MuchMusic USA is positioning itself as a viewer-driven network and another voice for record companies besides Viacom-owned MTV, VH1, BET and CMT.
“When you look at the landscape today, there is only one company that controls the music television environment. That means there is only one point of view,” said Marc Juris, president of MuchMusic USA.
Mr. Juris was general manager at American Movie Classics until last year, when he was brought to sister cable network MuchMusic USA with the task of growing the fledgling network.
“I think people like choice. I hear that every day,” Mr. Juris said. “Record labels, cable affiliates, advertisers and viewers all tell us they’d like to see us succeed because we represent an independent voice in music. And we represent the people. We thought there was a real opportunity to go into the marketplace with a uniquely branded music channel and make some noise.”
The network’s programming affords a degree of interactivity that is more than just noise-it’s music to viewers’ ears. It launched three key shows in June 2001, including “Tastemaker,” which runs nightly at 7 p.m. (ET). Viewers of the show can go to MuchMusic USA’s Web site, www.mmusa.tv, and post videos of themselves and talk about which music videos they like best. “Oven Fresh” features music from new artists at 7:30 p.m. weekdays and lets viewers vote for their favorite videos online. “Mixtape Mixdown,” at 6 p.m. weekdays, shows videos from a different music genre each day.
“At the heart of every program is an online component,” Mr. Juris said. “We don’t have a show, then add a chat and say, `We’re a convergence network,’ just because we added a chatroom on the Web site. Our whole network lives, breathes, eats and sleeps online.
“When you look at our target audience, primarily the younger end of it, this is an audience that probably feels they’re not heard as much and not listened to. We give them a network where they actually pick what goes on. The only people on our network are our audience-we don’t have professional on-air talent.”
MuchMusic USA’s first hosted show, “Uranium,” launched on Memorial Day. The weekly series about heavy metal features a host who was a former viewer and “Tastemaker” participant.
“Soundtrack to Your Life,” which debuted in May, asks viewers to share which song most inspires them. TV crews are sent out to film viewers whose submissions are selected. Set tentatively for June 20 is a telecast of the network-sponsored “Freedom Concert,” with Wyclef Jean celebrating the 75th anniversary of Coney Island’s Cyclone roller coaster. The concert is part of a series the network kicked off in December with Melissa Etheridge in concert at New York’s Grand Central Station.
In August the network will launch “Look Like a Rock Star,” the working title of a show on which viewers upload photos of themselves and other viewers vote on whether they look like certain rock stars. Winners will be featured on the air.
Mr. Juris said part of MuchMusic USA’s mission is to help cable affiliates drive their broadband sales by creating programming that will encourage the primary technology users-which in many homes are the computer-savvy teens-to use high-speed Web connections for downloads of programming-related content. “We partner with our cable affiliates to create a national promotion that helps drive their broadband initiative,” Mr. Juris said.
The success of MuchMusic USA’s popular “Class Dismissed” show is proof that teen viewers are interested. Viewers create a music video from a band’s music by downloading clips from MuchMusic USA’s Web site, which they use to put together a finished product that they then upload back to MuchMusic USA. Last year, viewers submitted videos for Alanis Morissette, and the winner’s high school was chosen for a surprise concert by the singer. On June 27, the second annual “Class Dismissed” will feature a Goo Goo Dolls concert at Monrovia High School in California. The cable network received double the number of submissions this year, with 10 percent of viewers making original music videos by shooting them digitally and uploading them to the network.
MuchMusic USA also has a real-time music video request show, “Dedicate Live,” which is similar to MTV’s “Total Request Live” but more viewer-oriented, Mr. Juris said. The show, which premiered on Feb. 14, appears at 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. daily and allows viewers to make a dedication to someone they love-or hate-and send an automatic e-mail to that person. The show has seen consistent growth, with an average 0.2 Nielsen Media Research rating. For the rest of the network’s schedule, 40 percent of the programming comes from its Canadian MuchMusic affiliate. Rainbow has a long-term licensing agreement to receive its feeds. MuchMusic USA and MuchMusic still co-produce events and concerts.
MuchMusic USA is now in 24 million (mostly digital cable and satellite) subscriber homes, double last year’s number, and it is expected to grow. “From the advertiser point of view, we’re delivering a very valuable audience, a teen audience,” Mr. Juris said. “They’re very hard to reach, and we reach them in an environment where they’re very involved with us.
“We are pleasantly surprised by the ratings, and the audience composition is pure 12- to 34-year-olds, no waste whatsoever. It’s one of the best audience compositions. This is a very crucial audience to advertisers and even to cable affiliates, and anything that can reach them and talk to them in an effective manner is welcomed and embraced.”