MTV gets early start on originals

Cabler makes a new scheduling move

For the first time in several years, MTV is opening up the 9 p.m. hour.

Beginning June 15, the channel is relaunching its Thursday nights at 9, an hour ahead of its typical schedule, with the third season of Sean “Diddy” Combs’ “Making the Band,” followed by new cycles of “Run’s House,” “Pimp My Ride” and encores of just-launched Jamie Kennedy starrer “Blowin’ Up.”

Scheduling move is a departure for MTV, which premieres all of its original episodes at 10 p.m. during the Monday-Friday branded destination the Ten Spot.

Paul DeBenedittis, exec VP of multiplatform programming, content strategy and scheduling for MTV, sees an opportunity for MTV to make some headway earlier in primetime on Thursdays.

“For awhile, it felt like all the networks were chasing Thursdays. With NBC out of the comedy game at 9, that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore,” DeBenedittis said. “It feels like there is a real opportunity for us now. It’s summer and all of these shows are returning hits.”

DeBenedittis said, in success, the 9 p.m. time period would continue through fall — putting it up against ABC’s younger-skewing sudser “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“I’m not that concerned with the broadcast schedules,” the exec said. “I do hope to keep this alive as long as possible. It’s going to depend on how the audience reacts to the shows and the timeslot. Our focus is still on the 10 Spot. We have the biggest, broadest play there, followed by our afternoon strips.”

What’s more, scheduling matters aren’t top priority for MTV, which typically reruns its series episodes multiple times over different dayparts throughout the week. “Laguna Beach,” for example, only found its legs in its second season after MTV had run episodes all over the schedule. It’s a strategy that has grown shows with lukewarm debuts into hits including “Yo Momma” and “Wild ‘N’ Out.”

At the same time, MTV has quietly done away with the male-targeted Sunday Night Stew, moving night anchor “Punk’d” to Monday nights followed by frosh skein “Call to Greatness.” “Punk’d” has still got several cycles to go under a deal with MTV, while jury is still out on more episodes of “Call.” Also up in the air is a renewal for unscripted modeling skein “8th & Ocean.”

“Stew was a great example of targeting and dominating a demo, but it’s always about finding the right pockets for the right programming on the schedule,” he said. Insiders say Stew was laid to rest to make room for MTV2, which repositioned itself as an irreverent outlet for young guys. Cabler airs reruns of several MTV’s former guy fare including “Wildboyz,” “Viva La Bam” and now premieres new episodes of “The Andy Milonakis Show.”

Like other cable networks during the summer months, MTV will roll out several marquee series including “Fast Incorporated,” a car makeover show not unlike “Pimp My Ride”; “Laguna Beach” spinoff “The Hills” and emerging songstress reality series “Cheyenne.”

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