MTV has been a cultural touchstone for over thirty years. The youth oriented, cable network initially heralded itself as “the world’s first twenty four hour, stereo, video music channel." Though out the 1980s, MTV’s program format strategy encouraged young audiences to tune in and wait for their favorite artists’ latest hits to be played. Programming executives -- with the help of VJs (video jockeys)--teased audiences. No programming schedule was published. Rather, the network created sense of anticipatory flow. The 1990s brought about a new strategy and the beginning of a massive shift in programming format when seven strangers started living together in front of the cameras. MTV’s Real World is often credited with, or blamed for, ushering in the now dominant televisual genre known as reality TV. But now that Housewives, and Bachelors, and Idols have been a staple of American television for more than a decade, MTV is saying goodbye Snooki.
In November 2012 when MTV took a massive ratings blow and a 30%+ loss in viewership Viacom announced that a new executive team was on the way in to revitalize the network and the brand. Most notably, Susanne Daniels was named, President of Programming just as the network’s first two successful scripted programs Awkward and Teen Wolf began catch the attention of both fans and critics. Daniels is the former WB Network executive who shepherded such youth oriented programs as the acclaimed Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Gilmore Girls. Daniels seems to be banking on her record of cultivating smart, and dare I say “quality TV,” aimed at the coveted 18-34 demo.
Recently Daniels has brought in Mina Lefevre, the ABC Family Executive responsible for the hit show Pretty, Little Liars, to serve as MTV’s Vice President of Programming to assist in getting the network’s ratings back up to a healthy level. MTV’s third programming wave appears to blend 80s nostalgia and kitsch with intelligently written scripted dramedies that that will appeal to young audiences and perhaps, even, their Gen Xer parents.