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Can a New Programming Chief Save MTV?

We told you earlier this week why music videos are no longer MTV‘s cup of tea (reality shows are king, iTunes and Pandora rule the music world, you’re old, etc.), but now it seems the network that once supplied a generation with its soundtrack is struggling against falling ratings. So far this season, ratings are down roughly 30%, causing some concern for parent company Viacom. To make matters worse, MTV is about to lose its grossly (emphasis on the gross) popular series Jersey Shore.

While Viacom’s earnings were up 13%, revenue was down 17% for the July-September period–and domestic ad revenue declined 6%. During a conference call with analysts to discuss the issue, Wells Fargo media analyst Marci Ryvicker said, “There is a fear out there that MTV is broken.” Philippe Dauman, Viacom’s chief executive, immediately came to the network’s defense: “It is not broken…MTV is very healthy. Indeed, we have a great development pipeline and we have just added one of the major talents in our business in addressing young audience in Susanne Daniels.”

Daniels, who was hired this week as the network’s programming chief, earned her stripes at the WB network over a decade ago by championing shows like Dawson’s Creek and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It seems MTV hopes she’s still got an eye for what appeals to America’s youth–and that she can breathe new life into the slumping network’s programming lineup. “She will bring with her some additional talent who will bring to bear more development in the reality and scripted area. We have a good pipeline and this will turbo-charge it”, Dauman said of his new hire.

As optimistic as Dauman sounds, he does admit that increasing ad revenue is a top priority (and the main reason the recent ratings decline must be rectified). “We are engaging in self-help. We are going to create the supply, the inventory, so we can capture the [advertiser] demand that is out there…That’s why it is so important on building our programming and building our ratings.”

Only time will tell whether MTV will go the way of the Dodo, or if its new “turbo-charge” pipeline will once again have American kids chanting, “I want my MTV.”

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