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MTV cues cuts but ‘TRL’ remains

Despite layoffs, musicvideo show stays on

MTV’s “Total Request Live” is still breathing — but in what form?

A number of staff members at the teen-skewing fave were laid off Wednesday.

Still, net says it won’t shutter the musicvideo request show, contradicting online rumors earlier in the day — and print rumors last month — that the daily series would go off the air.

“TRL” is “not going off the air,” a rep said flatly Wednesday. “It’s not going anywhere.”

Show has gone through a major shift since its late ’90s and early ’00s heyday, when it became a major tastemaking force for artists aimed at the 12-24 set.

Supremacy in the world of musicvid interactivity has been usurped by MySpace and YouTube, where users can share videos in a manner far more personal than a cable net’s predigested format.

Net could be looking at ways to tweak the format to reverse a ratings slide at the third longest-running show in MTV history. Teen auds have been notably absent: Among the 12-17 set, ratings in the first quarter of 2007 have slid by 29% vs. a year earlier, though ratings in the 18-24 demo are basically unchanged.

Damien Fahey, Vanessa Minnillo, Susie Castillo and La La Vasquez are among the show’s hosts; while all have cachet, the days are gone when Carson Daly set the tween and teen agenda.

News of the layoffs come on the third day of changes at MTV Networks, which brought more shifts in Viacom’s music group.

As part of the overhaul, Viacom is also shutting down MTV World. Premium service available on DirecTV and others carriers in the U.S. beamed three MTV nets aimed at Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans and Indian-Americans, respectively.

“Unfortunately, the premium distribution model for MTV World proved more challenging than we anticipated in this competitive environment,” company said in a statement.

It remains unclear whether there will be alternative access to those nets, but MTV said it’s “continuing to investigate ways to integrate the MTV Desi, Chi and K brands online and on our other screens.”

Also on Wednesday, MTV2 general manager, David Cohn was said to be leaving his post at the spinoff net, though he may yet be reassigned elsewhere within MTV.

And late Wednesday came word that Jessica Heacock, MTVN exec veep of affiliate sales and marketing, was ankling the company. Her responsibilities will be given to other staffers at the company.

Viacom will eventually make about 250 layoffs at all of its cable nets.

Insiders said that many of the cuts will take place within the music group, which includes MTV, VH1 and their spinoffs. The kids and family group (led by Nickelodeon) and the entertainment group (of which Comedy Central and Spike are a part) will see more minor changes.

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