MTV Oz, Club V put decision-making in viewers' hands

SYDNEY — So many new shows on Australia’s pay TV music webs are asking viewers to phone in votes to determine programming that the cell phone is becoming the remote control of the next generation.

Both MTV Networks Australia, which puts out VH1 and MTV, and XYZ Networks, covering Channel V, Max and Club V, air shows that put the decision-making in the viewers’ hands.

“The mobile phone is the remote control for young people, and it allows them to shape programming on MTV,” says MTV Australia topper Nigel Robbins.

This also brings in a new income stream for the webs, although most execs are coy about revealing numbers.

“At the moment, we do not have huge margins on the SMS voting, and we are trying to keep the costs low with our younger audience in mind,” says Rob Logan, head of programming for XYZ Networks, who says a premium rate of A55¢ (42¢) is charged when prizes are involved.

“But obviously if the model succeeds, there will be more room to grow the financial side. At the moment, it is about viewer participation and a point of difference.”

Logan also says the format allows for the involvement of sponsors via giveaways and integrated billboards.

Leading MTV’s onslaught of viewer-controlled content is its local version of “TRL” (Total Request Live) in which viewers vote for the Top 10. It has been such a success that the format runs nightly and in a weekend slot.

Upping the interactivity to a real-time format, “Video Clash,” launched in March, allows viewers to vote for the music video that will be shown next. The result is displayed live as the votes roll in.

The music web has partnered with mobile entertainment leader, Yarosa Entertainment, through Australian subsidiary SMSTv and Information Dialing Services (IDS) to provide the interactive services.

Youth rival Channel [V] is set for an interactive overhaul thanks to research that fingered cell phones as the most single important piece of technology to kids.

“We found that nine out of 10 young people have a mobile phone, so interactivity is the key,” says Logan, who adds that his daughter insists the research is inaccurate. “She says it is 10 out of 10.”

Three shows will drive [V]’s sked:

The first is “What You Wanted,” a joint venture between XYZ and radio network DMG, which will see the most requested songs from the Nova radio network and Channel [V] compiled into a weekly countdown.

[V]’s version of the popular Web site “Hot or Not” will allow viewers to send in a photo of themselves, and SMS votes will decide who’s “hot” and who shouldn’t have bothered.

Finally, “My Tunes” will put a viewer’s musical selection to a peer test, you guessed it, by phone.

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