"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 26 April 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

I Want My MTV, Too


[Tabitha Soren]

According to the show-biz trade

rag Variety, media hydra Viacom

is planning to launch a second

MTV network by the end of the

year. The seemingly endless

demand for Weezer videos and

televised "town meetings" at

which real live twentysomethings

sit down for quick chats with

Tabitha and world leaders makes

the launch of MTV2 seem like a

no-brainer, even for the

butt-heads who loosed Blind

Melon on the world. Here's the

shock: just when we were

beginning to think the "M" stood

for money, rumor has it that the

new network's going to focus

almost exclusively on music. You

know, videos and stuff.


[Twisted Sister]

It might seem odd that MTV would

expand into creating original

programming only to return to

its roots, but the network was

never really about music in the

first place - even back when it

played more videos. The songs

were just there as a soundtrack

to onscreen images of improbably

cool young people having a

blast, away from the watchful

eyes of authority figures.

Teachers who dared raise their

loathsome heads were swiftly

dispatched by rockers like Dee

Snider or David Lee Roth (a

scenario that has been swiftly

repurposed in Slim Jim

commercials). Smart lifestyle

marketers knew that celebrity

allies could only aid in the

all-important fight for one's

right to party, and MTV became

somewhat of a sensation.


[The Real Bowl]

Unfortunately, the same

rapid-fire format that made

music videos irresistible to the

attention-span impaired

children of Sesame Street also

kept said children glued to

their remote controls, and

channel surfing can be a real

bummer when the tide's not going

your way. Barring a prog-rock

revival, videos can only get

so long, so MTV started to

create actual programs. Most are

about improbably cool young

people having a blast, the prime

difference being that, on the

shows, they get to do so in

prime real estate. Whether a

huge Manhattan apartment or

a luxury London flat, The Real

World is Lifestyles of the Rich

and Famous for the generation

that's still mostly living with

mom and dad. Throw in attractive

characters, romantic tension, and

a soundtrack of mostly

major-label guitar rock, and

you've got a serialized video

that keeps the kids coming back,

week after week.


[Dead At 21 Story Arc]

Nearly all of MTV's shows rely on

this kind of lifestyle fantasy,

and most drive home the

network's youth-centric

worldview as well. The

inexplicably short-lived program

Dead at 21 followed the

adventures of a twenty-year-old

fugitive with an

intelligence-enhancing computer

chip in his brain, and a corrupt

intelligence agent on his trail.

He had it all - good looks,

great hair, and a flirtatious

female fugitive by his side -

but the chip was set to explode

when he reached 21. The show had

it all as far as MTV is

concerned - conflict, romance,

and teen angst - and all the

action took place over a

background of bland alternarock

hits. Give or take a computer

chip, and the struggle is every

teenager's. Who could channel

surf away from such drama?


[Star Trek Generations]

What makes MTV2 such genius is

that it's always there if you

do touch that dial. Granted,

it's unusual for a media

property to spin off its

core content (could you imagine

Rolling Stone starting a

music magazine or Suck a

guide to what's bad on the Web?)

but this is Viacom's brightest

business idea since forcing Trekkies

to fork over $7.50 for new

episodes of The Next Generation.

Whether or not it's what you'd

consider real entertainment

depends on how much you want

your MTV(s).


[Viacom: The Businesses]

Once cable television finally

grows into a 500-channel ITV

behemoth, MTV's broadband brand

strategy will become the pimply,

angst-ridden Generation Y's

first stop for pop culture

consumption. Turn on at eight to

check out Singled Out on MTV's

game show channel, then surf

over to The Virtual World on its

documentary channel, or check

out indoor rock climbing on

MTVSPN. If things get dull, the

video channel is only a click

away. Come for the programs and

stay for the videos, as Viacom

execs expect viewers to do now.

Or sit down to watch a video and

get lured in by clickable icons

advertising full-length

programs. Maybe the network will

even have a news-only channel

(MTVNN?) or one dedicated

exclusively to Beavis and

Butt-head re-runs (which would,

like, rule).



Lose interest in youth culture

and you'll automatically be

shunted over to VH1's content

suite, where you'll mellow out

to contemporary hits and revisit

your favorites from MTV.

Children not yet interested in

music will be prepped for the

experience by Viacom's

Nickelodeon, then eased into it

by Beavis and Butt-head, who are

nothing if not instructors in

how to watch MTV. The only

reason Viacom's brand strategy

doesn't stretch completely from

cradle to grave is because

disposable incomes dip when

consumers reach their mid-30s.


[MTV International Expansionists]

Just in case you thought the

promo spot that showed an

astronaut planting an MTV flag

on the moon was anything other

than an implication of

universality, the network is

also splitting its global analog

signal into digital feeds, which

will allow it to deliver even

more (mostly) customized

programming to Europe, Asia, and

Latin America. It's a small

world after all, in the digital

age - which is good news for

foreigners particularly

interested in sharing Billy

Corgan's pain.


[MTV Online]

The narrowing of narrowcasting

will inevitably take us to the

point where the age-old phrase

"I want my MTV" means exactly

that - my MTV, a pre-digested IV

drip of music-backed programming

tailored precisely to your

lifestyle. Which would be a lot

like a really efficient version

of video rental. Or perhaps the

MTV of the future will program

according to the tastes of

others in a given demographic

group. Which would be a lot like

a really efficient version of

The Box.

courtesy of Dr. Dreidel