MTV Shakes Up Afternoon Block

Dec 12, 2005  •  Post A Comment

MTV’s afterschool programming block requires constant care and feeding. Teenagers’ tastes in programming formats and visual styles change as fast as their tastes in, well, music videos.

But the latest revamp of the three-hour block is more dramatic than usual: The 60-minute series premiere portion will be expanded to 90 minutes, along with the addition of a new dating show, “My Own.” Two current series, “Made” and “Room Raiders,” have been renewed.

MTV is currently the reigning ratings champ in afterschool teen programming, besting competitors Cartoon Network, Disney Channel and ABC Family. MTV’s third quarter was the highest rated in years for the block, generating an average of 556,000 viewers 12 to 24, according to Nielsen Media Research.

“We believe the afternoon block is a cornerstone of our key demo,” said Paul DeBenedittis, MTV’s senior VP of programming. “What’s different for us compared to other networks is we’re not acquiring products and stripping it five days a week. We’re original and never static. We’re looking to constantly refreshen the schedule. When something is working, we don’t order 60 more episodes, we look for 20 or 40.”

But MTV’s margin of victory has slipped during fourth quarter season to date, with viewership in the 12 to 24 demo falling to a two-year low of 411,000. Mr. DeBenedittis attributed the dip to having fewer originals on the air, a reminder of how demanding the afterschool audience can be for new and improved content.

Starting in January, MTV will make a series of improvements to the block, which features three hours of programming between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. MTV typically produces about six afternoon series that rotate in and out of the block, anchored by the popular hour-long request show “TRL.” Aside from “TRL,” one hour of the block traditionally has consisted of episode premieres.

The first change will be expanding the premieres block to 90 minutes, something Mr. DeBenedittis said the network has wanted to do for years.

The second is a stylistic look-feel refresh for interstitials, something the network does about every quarter.

The third is adding “My Own,” a hybrid of “The Dating Game,” MTV’s “Fanatic” and “American Idol.”

In each “My Own” episode, a dedicated fan of a superstar artist will choose between three potential wannabe pop star suitors who perform the artist’s songs. Twenty episodes have been ordered. Mr. DeBenedittis said the show combines fantasy fulfillment and a performance element with the traditional dating show.

Last week MTV also announced the order of two reality series that follow artists trying to break into the music industry. “Cheyenne” follows new teen talent Cheyenne Kimball, while “There & Back” chronicles former O-Town singer Ashley Parker Angel.

“There & Back” premieres in January. A date has not been announced for “Cheyenne.”