MTV2 Slate Dips Toes in Toon Waters

May 29, 2006  •  Post A Comment

Seeking to lap Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim among insomniac animation fans, MTV2 plans to give away the premiere episode of a new show, “The Adventures of Chico and Guapo,” through iTunes.

“Chico and Guapo,” about two hapless music industry interns, is one of three new shows in a late-night block the network hopes will bolster ratings. MTV2 is also preparing to announce the debut of a new martial arts program, “The Final Fu,” which will premiere in July.

The iTunes project marks one of the few times a television network has offered an entire original series episode for free on Apple Computer’s iTunes. NBC was the first, releasing “Conviction” installments for free.

“It was a no-brainer at this point. We want to get ‘Chico and Guapo’ in the right people’s hands as quickly as we can,” said David Cohn, general manager of MTV2. “As somebody recently said, ‘Ubiquity is the new exclusivity.'”

The “Chico and Guapo” iTunes deal is part of MTV2’s effort to bolster ratings and distinguish itself from music video pioneer MTV by generating excitement about new, original series. Last year the channel started to ease its reliance on repurposed MTV content, adding the surreal “Sesame Street” parody “Wonder Showzen” and “The Andy Milonakis Show.”

MTV2, a Viacom network, won’t be distributing the episode over Urge, the digital music store that corporate sibling MTV just launched with Microsoft, Mr. Cohn said.

“We’re obviously working closely with the Urge guys … but I don’t think they’re there yet,” Mr. Cohn said. “At this point in the video space, iTunes is the leader, so that’s where we want to be.”

On June 10 the network will launch its Sic’Emation block, including “The Adventures of Chico and Guapo,” “Where My Dogs At?” (featuring a pair of stray pooches in Hollywood) and the revival of “Celebrity Deathmatch.” The block airs late-night Friday-the only weeknight Adult Swim doesn’t appear.

“One of the main things is to show MTV2 having separate and distinct programming from MTV,” said Lisa Preston, VP of marketing and advertising for the network.

Though its overall viewership remains modest, averaging about 150,000 viewers in the most recent quarter, the new shows have helped MTV2 continue its ratings roll, garnering Nielsen viewership increases for 13 consecutive quarters among the 12 to 34 age group. Among total viewers, the network was up 10 percent in the most recent quarter.

Asked whether MTV2’s changes might cause it to alter its own lineup, a spokesperson said the network is always looking at new scheduling possibilities.