When was MTV less about music?

MTV : Less music, more television

Some days it gets really loud at MTV. Then the target group outside the door of the red brick building on Stralauer Allee screams so much that it can still be heard next door at the Universal music label. The teenagers wait for stars like Bushido, the Sons of Mannheim or Eminem to sign autographs before going live inside the studios. But as often as before, the fans in front of the MTV Germany headquarters in Berlin should no longer have reason to cheer. The music broadcaster has to save: entire programs have been canceled, where previously moderated clips could be seen, videos are now strung together. Fewer in-house productions are shot, but formats imported from the USA such as dating shows, reality soaps and comic shows are shown. But the broadcaster does not seem to focus more on “television” than “music”. From now on he will have a face less often: Moderators such as Markus Kavka, Joko Winterscheidt or Patrice Bouédibéla, who were identifying figures for the young target group with their casual sayings and trendy clothes, are less likely to be sent on air for cost reasons.

"That is not good news. But we are a commercial enterprise and in times of economic crisis we have to check exactly where we put our dollars, ”says Elmar Giglinger, director of the MTV and Viva broadcasters in Germany. Both music channels are combined with the children's channel Nick and the entertainment channel Comdey Central under the umbrella of the American parent company Viacom. And this is under a lot of pressure. In 2007 Viacom, which also includes the film studios Paramount and Dreamworks, had sales of 13.4 billion US dollars. For 2010, double-digit improvements in earnings were promised. But in view of the global economic crisis, this goal seems difficult to achieve. Just recently Viacom had to announce that the profit targets for 2008 cannot be achieved. So now it's time to get down to business.

However, Catherine Mühlemann, MTV Networks' longtime head of Germany for many years, does not use the red pencil. After seven years, she surprisingly left the company in May - for personal reasons, as she said. Perhaps she didn't want to have to destroy what she had helped to build: In 2007, according to the company, MTV, Viva, the children's channel Nick and Comedy Central achieved a market share of around seven percent among 14- to 49-year-old viewers.

Now Mühlemann's successor, the Dutchman Dan Ligtvoegt, is implementing the austerity course - and in fact on all four channels: At MTV, only music videos are played in the previously moderated programs "Urban" and "Rockzone", "MTV Masters" and "MTV News" are completely deleted. Instead of four times a week, the chart show “TRL” only runs as a clip show on Thursdays, as moderated programs remain - apart from specials - “TRL XXL” and “brand: neu”. The former competing channel Viva, which Viacom took over in 2004 for around 300 million dollars, is also affected: The “Viva feat.” Productions have been reduced, and from 2009 “Viva live!” Can only be seen twice a week. Things are even more intense with Nick and Comedy Central: If both channels previously had their own channel with a 24-hour program, they will be merged from mid-December. In the mornings and afternoons, Nick will play the children's program, and Comedy Central will take over from 8:15 p.m., and the frequency will be released from January. Not only are production and licensing costs saved with all these cuts, but jobs too. Among the approximately 350 permanent employees, eleven redundancies were issued for operational reasons, and 30 fixed-term contracts were not extended.

The paradox is: MTV has never been as successful as 2008 in Germany, at least according to viewers. The music channel, which has been available here for 21 years, has a market share of 2.6 percent among 14 to 29-year-old viewers, which corresponds to an increase of twelve percent compared to the same period in the previous year - even though the music share at MTV is only about 50 percent.

But the broadcaster seems to know that it is powerless against online competition and that it has to expand its programming in order to remain attractive to the target group. While music programs only showed videos ten years ago, clips can now be accessed anytime and anywhere where there is internet. Even the most important advertising partners to date, the record labels, suffer from the fact that songs are being downloaded more and more often from the Internet. "We feel this massively through less advertising," says Giglinger. Despite the competition from MySpace and Youtube, he believes in the future of music television: "MTV will still be around in five years." But "If you want to continue growing, you have to offer more than, just‘ music. "

That is why the station is increasingly relying on new formats - which, however, are rarely in-house productions, but were produced in the USA for MTV networks. Dating shows like “I love New York” or “Date my Mom”, reality shows, celebrity soaps or comic programs like “South Park” are part of it. Taking on such programs is cheaper than producing your own daily live shows such as “MTV News”.

Markus Kavka, who is one of the most popular MTV presenters and is also valued by people from the scene for his intelligent appearances, has presented "MTV News" for more than eight years and was regularly seen on "Rockzone". He does not want to comment on the program changes. On his homepage, however, he writes that he would have liked to say goodbye to the viewers of the two programs. But that was not possible “for certain reasons”. It seems as if MTV has secretly wanted to catapult the moderated formats into the end. It remains to be seen whether the station's bill will work out and whether it will be able to continue to inspire its viewers with fewer German in-house productions but with imported US goods as before. Markus Kavka, who can still be seen from time to time on MTV, at least doesn't want to give up. “It goes on,” he writes comfortingly.

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