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Teens Want Their Interactive MTV

MTV drew more than 2 million online submissions during @MTV Week month in which visitors to MTV’s Web site chose every music video shown on the network. A contest to select the next Backstreet Boys single drew 350,000 votes.

“The @MTV week turned out to be incredibly successful for us,” said Rick Holzman, vice president of MTV.com. “MTV is a brand and if we think of it in separate divisions we are selling it short. We wanted to position the brand as a cross-media entity to our core 12- to 24-year-old market, and we succeeded tremendously.”

During @MTV Week, the site reported a 50 percent increase in unique visitors vs. its previous 11-week average.

The idea for @MTV Week came from a commitment made last year by the company to re-brand itself. The initiative calls for as much interactive programming as possible throughout the year and thrusts MTV.com into the programming side. Instead of treating MTV.com as a separate entity, Holzman said his team is intimately involved in every process of the network’s programming and development. Holzman added that this integration will strengthen ties with advertisers and the burgeoning Internet market.

“@MTV Week was a great chance to show our artists and label partners some of the unique capabilities that MTV has over any other music player on the Internet,” said Holzman. “We can do television that drives to the Web and we can also allow the Web to help shape what the television product can be.”

The first step in MTV’s move to link its online and television content was WebRiot, an interactive game show which was renewed for 65 episodes in late February. Since the show debuted last November, more than 6 million people have logged onto MTV.com to play against the show.

Holzman said that feedback has always been a big part of MTV with viewers voting for the MTV Music and Film awards and selecting video jockeys.

In the early 80’s, MTV helped change the way music was marketed. After its pull seemed to level out in the early 90’s, the network re-established its market hold with its answer to American Bandstand, called Total Request Live.

TRL boasts an impressive 100,000 online request a day and is one of the most watched cable shows by 12 to 24 years olds. Appearing on the show virtually guarantees an artist a top spot in the singles and album charts.

During @MTV Week, an @MTV special ran everyday occupying the 4:30 p.m. time slot usually held by WebRiot. Ratings in the slot jumped 15 percent and online visitors increased 35 percent. MTV said the ratings jump was due to the similarity between the specials and TRL.

Holzman said a strict permission policy limits MTV’s ability to build an e-mail list despite the success of efforts such as @MTV Week.

“We could e-mail them everyday with info about programming and sponsors,” said Holzman. “Being that the kids are so young, often under 18, and they religiously watch and go online anyway, we feel we are better off not capitalizing on the list.”

The only regular e-mailings MTV.com conducts is a newsletter that visitors must request.

Bruce Tulgan, founder of Rainmaker Thinking, NY, a research and consulting firm that deals specifically with Generation’s X and Y, said that this re-branding and privacy policy is in standing with MTV’s market share and their past history with their target audience.

“MTV has come to be known for a dynamic relationship between the consumer and the entertainment experience,” said Tulgan. “The only way to keep this going is through new media convergence. These programs dovetail perfectly with the trend of 12 to 24 years olds who are online and have the TV on. This demographic more than any other is looking for customization and interactivity… without being bothered consistently.”

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