×

MTV News Shifts Toward Video, Targets Younger Audience (EXCLUSIVE)

MTV News is being restructured with an eye toward creating more video and short-form content for a younger audience, Variety has learned.

The move comes seven months after Chris McCarthy was named president of MTV, and on the heels of a reorganization of the network’s linear-programming department. The transition will see resources shift from long-form journalism to the development of short-form video pieces.

Among the most significant changes — MTV has reached an agreement with the Writers Guild of America East to represent MTV News staff members. As part of that agreement, MTV News is parting ways with fewer than a dozen staffers and several freelancers. The news division is in the process of hiring additional personnel to focus on video and short-form content.

Plans to reorganize the news division had been in the works prior to February, when the WGA East notified MTV that it would seek a contract on behalf of MTV News employees. MTV alerted the WGA East prior to beginning negotiations that it had already initiated plans to reorganize the news division. Severance for the departing staff members was negotiated by the WGA East.

MTV News had, since late 2015 and the addition of several writers and editors who had previously worked at the website Grantland, pursued a strategy designed to age up its digital audience. That strategy focused on the sort of long-form journalism that had drawn Grantland a devoted following and praise in media circles, with many article ranging from 4,000 to 6,000 words long.

Former editorial chief Dan Fierman, who had been editorial director at Grantland, departed MTV News in April.

Since 2015, according to network insiders, overall traffic for MTV News’ digital content has declined. According to Omniture, average number of unique views for MTV News editorial content was down 64% for the period of October 2016 to June 2017 versus the period of October 2014 to June 2017 — fiscal 2015, prior to Fierman’s hire, versus the current fiscal year. By the same measure, time spent was down 59%. Traffic for editorial video streams was down 97%.

According to Comscore, engagement time on MTV.com had been on the uptick, from an average 3.6 minutes in November to 4 minutes in February. That number measure all MTV.com content, including but not limited to news.

MTV is one of six “flagship” brands identified in February by Viacom CEO Bob Bakish as the focus of an overhaul of the company’s cable division. McCarthy has worked quickly since adding MTV to a portfolio that already included VH1 and Logo to revamp the channel’s executive team in linear programming and marketing. The rehab effort has included a move away from scripted programming with the cancellation of low-rated series such as “Sweet/Vicious,” “Mary and Jane,” and “Loosely Exactly Nicole” — the latter set to be revived by Facebook as its first original television-style series. MTV has pivoted toward the sort of unscripted shows that had long been staples for the channel with new series “Promposal” and reboots of “My Super Sweet 16” and “Fear Factor.”

In average viewers 18-34, MTV is up 3% in June from the same month last year, according to Nielsen live-plus-same day numbers — the first time the network has experienced year-over-year gains in its target demo since 2011. “Promposal” and “My Super Sweet 16” have significantly outperformed MTV original-series averages among women 18-24 as the network attempt to grow its audience in younger demos.

More TV

  • On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los

    On-Location Filming Slides 3.9% in Los Angeles in Second Quarter

    Held down by a lack of soundstage space, total on-location filming in greater Los Angeles declined 3.9% in the second quarter to 8,632 shoot days, permitting agency FilmLA reported Thursday. “Although our latest report reveals a decline in filming on location, local production facilities tell us that they are operating at capacity,” said FilmLA president [...]

  • Don Johnson

    'Nash Bridges' Revival With Don Johnson in Development at USA Network

    USA Network is in early development on a revival of “Nash Bridges,” Variety has confirmed. Original series star Don Johnson has signed on to star in the series, reprising the title role he played for six seasons when the show originally ran on CBS. Carlton Cuse, who created the original show, is not attached as he [...]

  • BH90210: L-R: Brian Austin Green, Gabrielle

    'BH90210's' the Peach Pit Pop-Up to Open in L.A. (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fox and Popsugar have teamed up to open the Peach Pit in celebration of “BH90210,” Variety has learned exclusively. The beloved retro diner has been recreated for the upcoming continuation series debuting August 7 on Fox, and for a few nights leading up to the big premiere, reservations can be made to dine in. Taking [...]

  • John FordNPact Awards, Show, Los Angeles,

    John Ford to Exit as Head of Unscripted Producers Trade Association NPact

    John Ford has stepped down as general manager of NPact, the trade association that represents unscripted TV producers. Ford is exiting the post he’s held since 2015 because of the potential for conflicts of interest arising from his role as head of programming for digital multicast outlets Justice Network and Quest Network. The channels were [...]

  • Justin Connolly

    Disney Merges All Media Sales and TV Channel Distribution Under Justin Connolly

    Disney promoted Justin Connolly to the new role of president, media distribution, overseeing a single organization that combines all of the company’s media sales and TV channel distribution operations. Connolly previously served as EVP, affiliate sales and marketing, Disney and ESPN Media Networks. Based in New York, he will report to Kevin Mayer, chairman of [...]

  • Kevin Reilly

    WarnerMedia's HBO Max Unveils Content Team

    WarnerMedia has unveiled its original programming and business operations and strategy teams as the company builds out its HBO Max streaming platform. Sarah Aubrey will lead the original programming group as head of original content, reporting to HBO Max chief content officer Kevin Reilly. Joining her on that team are Joey Chavez as executive vice [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content