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‘Carmen’ has MTV singing

Townsend-helmed telepic hits ratings high note

NEW YORK — “MTV’s Hip-Hopera: Carmen” chalked up the second-best Nielsen numbers for an original movie in the history of MTV, delivering a 2.8 rating, which translates into 2.2 million cable homes — more than triple the network’s usual primetime average.

Maggie Malena, MTV’s VP of original movies for TV, said a closer analysis of the Nielsens shows a time-period-winning 3.27 rating among people 12-34, the network’s target aud.

“These numbers back up our strategy to do between four and six TV movies a year and treat them as special events,” Malena said.

Consistent with the special-event blueprint, exec VP of programming Brian Graden said the net’s original movies will be budgeted at about $3 million each, much higher than the typical cable made-for.

A modern-day urban version of Bizet’s classic opera, “Carmen” stars Beyonce Knowles of the group Destiny’s Child, Mekhi Phifer and Mos Def. The director is Robert Townsend. Loretha Jones produced it for New Line TV.

Because of the steep production costs, Malena said MTV will continue to seek outside partners for its movies as well as keeping them inhouse.