MTV lets you have it (any way you want it)

MTV in Canada converses and connects by staking a claim in every place (and every device) frequented by its audience

MTV in Canada converses and connects by staking a claim in every place (and every device) frequented by its audience

‘Young people today want content to be available on whatever device they want at whatever time they want it,’ says Brad Schwartz, SVP/GM music and youth services at CTVglobemedia.

MTV in Canada, now two years young, appears to be doing a good job of that with seven platforms – not to mention staying on the lookout for new vehicles to add to its arsenal for communicating with its 12- to 34-year-old target. MTV currently pipes content out through conventional TV, analog specialty TV, a broadband website, iTunes and mobile-phone viewing, and shares its brand essence via on-the-ground events and concerts and consumer products.

‘When we spread a brand across many platforms, young people are more engaged in that content,’ says Schwartz, noting that the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts, which is especially key for the digerati demo. Explaining MTV’s broad demographic, Schwartz says the brand is more concerned with targeting a mental attitude than a specific age group: ‘People are staying younger longer.’

MTV schedules are heavy on hosted talk shows and lifestyle and documentary programming, with a commitment to 71% Canadian programming in prime time, though many popular MTV U.S. shows also air in Canada. Music is notably absent from MTV in Canada (setting it apart from other MTV-branded channels around the world), because under current CRTC format regulations, MuchMusic (now also owned by CTVglobemedia) is the only English-language channel that can be devoted to music.

David Kines, SVP music and youth services at CTVglobemedia, says that there are no plans to join MTV and MuchMusic together at the consumer level. ‘We believe that the value lies in the differences between these two very powerful brands,’ he says. ‘We want to maximize both brands by emphasizing the distinctions.’

Both brands target the same audience, and despite its obvious lack of VJs, MTV has created a similar audience hook and continuity via its diverse cast of charismatic hosts who helm the talk and show intro/extro pieces. They also participate in on-air events, such as the recent Tussle in the Temple, in which comedian Daryn Jones battled the net’s popular flunky Paul The Intern, or The Largest Loser contest, in which more trash was talked than weight was lost.

MTV.ca offers on-demand music, videos, video games and movie trailers to the techno-savvy youth market as well as full-length episodes from MTV shows. Last year, streaming accounted for 80% of activity on mtv.ca, with TV shows the most popular feature.

Since last year, consumers have been able to purchase and download MTV programming from the Apple iTunes digital media player application. In fact, iTunes now features more content from MTV than from any other supplier. In addition, Bell Mobility and Rogers Wireless video subscribers can watch full episodes of MTV shows on their phones while on the go. Consumers can also text MTV to access new ringtones and mobile downloads.

Consumer involvement is a critical part of the brand’s success, according to Schwartz. ‘Communication is absolutely the hallmark of young people today,’ he says. ‘They’re into collective cocooning and staying very close.’ As such, MTV encourages consumer interaction by offering in-studio opportunities, live webcams and talk shows incorporating consumer emails and phone calls. This approach even led to the creation of exportable new content that revolves around the interaction. MTV in Canada created The Hills After Show in 2006 to give consumers a lively forum for discussing the MTV hit show The Hills, and had a hit of its own on its hands.

‘We knew that when the show ended on Monday nights, people were talking about it with their friends, so we decided to create a new show that would get young Canadians from coast to coast together to talk about it,’ says Schwartz. Viewers can contribute from the studio audience or via email, webcam or phone. It struck such a chord that the show was picked up last year by MTV in the U.S., which aired a live simulcast on mtv.com.

And every day the network invites its youthful audience to join the conversation during the interactive talk show MTV Live, which gives viewers the chance to kibbitz with popular MTV hosts such as Jones and Dan Levy, or help interview celebrity guests, either from the live audience at the Masonic Temple, MTV’s studio in Toronto, or via email. In addition to pop culture, serious social and political issues are often tackled, which gives the brand more authority than a strictly entertainment agenda.

MTV also partners with other brands to build engagement. For example, a promotion with Rogers lets MTV expand on its non-downloadable online streaming platform The Leak (a global MTV franchise through which many artists debut their albums online). Now Rogers cellphone users in Canada can stream music from mtv.ca directly onto their phones, a week before it hits the stores.

Online contests are another major part of the MTV agenda, with current youth-friendly prizes including tickets to the Telus World Ski & Snowboard Festival in B.C, and to UFC 83 in Montreal. Tens of thousands of entries are usually received, while some attract more than a million.

MTV’s most recent venture was a line of vinyl toys called MTV Fauna, based on the network’s on-air graphics. If you want to target the youth market, Schwartz says, ‘having a strong brand is more crucial than ever in this fragmented digital world.’

In the U.S., MTV is partnering with Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer on a videogame development studio to bolster the huge success of its game Rock Band. By constantly coming up with new ways to engage its consumers, MTV manages to keep itself top-of-mind through sheer volition.

With files from Mary Maddever

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