MTV overhauls programming strategy

Sitcoms, animation, horror on horizon

MTV is overhauling its strategy under new programming topper Tony DiSanto.

Net will beef up the orders on some series, reduce some programming slots and potentially expand into areas as diverse as horror, sitcoms and animation.

Cabler will trim the number of new series it puts on the air by an unspecified number, DiSanto told Daily Variety in an interview, but will up its episode orders for select series so that the overall number of original-programming hours remain roughly the same.

As part of the expansion into new areas, DiSanto confirmed Wednesday that MTV was in development with veteran TV writer-director Tom Stern (“Crank Yankers,” “The Andy Milonakis Show”) on an animated series in a kind of return to its roots after the earlier success of “Beavis and Butthead.”

Show will focus on life in a U.S. high school from the point of view of a teenage boy, with the added twist that some of the characters will be based on MTV viewers themselves.

“I basically want to do a page one rewrite instead of rewriting off the old script,” DiSanto said of his game plan.

The moves come as part of what DiSanto calls the “Tiffany model” –essentially an attempt to create buzz and free up marketing dollars by focusing on fewer shows.

“I think of it as a movie studio model, where the whole country knows when a movie is being released,” he said. “That’s what I’d like to apply to our series model.”

Net also wants to invest more heavily in those tentpoles, and on Wednesday, DiSanto revealed that MTV was picking up “The Hills” and “Run’s House” for new seasons — and that episode orders will essentially be supersized.

“The Hills,” for instance, will receive an 18-episode order, roughly double the number of episodes in its most recent season. Net also revealed that the third season would debut on Aug. 13.

MTV has decided to order a fourth season of its hit “Laguna Beach”; it had previously considered not bringing it back.

Net is moving forward on a new season with an all-new cast. Series will be very much in the vein of the show’s first season — following a group of classmates in their final year (or, in some cases, two years) of high school.

While show won’t be shot at Laguna High, it is currently in production at another unnamed Orange County school — likely in Newport Beach — and could be on the air later this year.

Execs are still undecided whether to tweak the name to reflect the new locale or extend the franchise by keeping the “Laguna” title.

Net also confirmed Wednesday a series greenlight for docu series “The Life of Ryan,” about teen skateboarder Ryan Scheckler, the San Clemente native who is one of the sport’s rising stars.

Series will follow Scheckler in both his career and his family, particularly his relationship with his siblings, and will be on the air later this year.

The Gotham-based DiSanto took the top spot from Lois Curren in April after a surprise announcement that Curren would scale back her responsibilities just several months after being promoted.

DiSanto has kept a low profile in the first six weeks of his tenure but has quietly begun to institute a number of changes. Last month, for instance, he streamlined his team into three groups focusing on development, programming and new media.

Curren will still oversee select projects, including net’s “Menudo” reality series. Cast members of the show moved in their house this week, MTV said.

Amount of programming on MTV has ballooned just in the last few years, but few shows get the numbers that series like “The Osbournes” and “Newlyweds” once drew.

DiSanto said he wanted to dial back the net to a time of fewer originals to better serve those projects. The new strategy is about “making sure we’re passionate about each show and the slate isn’t just getting fat,” he said.

One of the net’s biggest bets this year is scripted drama “Kaya,” a fictional show about a teenage rock star from “24” producers Tony Krantz and Deborah Joy Levine. As a pricier show, it may not command the supersized order of “The Hills,” but the series has been one of DiSanto’s pet projects and its success in the ratings will likely be one of the first referendums on the DiSanto era.

DiSanto is high on “Rapping With the Stars,” a hip-hop version of “Dancing With the Stars,” and may also develop a music-competition show.

MTV is known for keeping many projects in development, but DiSanto said that in streamlining the teams his goal is to get more on the air. “I want to microwave and fast-track production,” he said. “I don’t like things sitting on the slate for too long.”

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