It seems change is a constant for MTV, a channel that has always faced the challenge of catering to traditionally light TV viewers, a segment that now has more distractions and entertainment options than ever.
Last week, MTV’s regional Asia feed retired the brand’s 33-year-old ‘I Want My TV’ rallying cry in favor of a more new inclusive positioning that included viewer created-promos and a new platform to help make them, plus bespoke digital content for apps as well as the web, all designed to win over multiscreen millennials.
The new look – part of a broader shift to readjust to verbal and visual communication that evolved online, not on TV – first appeared in June in parts of Europe and Latin America, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.
It will be implemented throughout MTV’s local Asian feeds within six months.
In Southeast Asia, it also follows a succession of licensing partnerships inked over the last two years to further localize the channel and strengthen its appeal.
Prior programming and promotional initiatives had already helped lift ad sales revenue across Southeast Asia by 46% from October 2014 to September 2015.
MTV has been facing a spike in competition Southeast Asia, as more local platforms launched their own homegrown music channels.
Ad sales is an especially important revenue source for the music-oriented channel, which offers brands bespoke programs and on-ground events, although company executives stress that MTV remains wedded to pay-TV’s dual revenue stream model.
A free-to-air programming block on air in Indonesia since November – the result of another local tie-up, this time with Karsa Group, a domestic marcoms agency – is a specific solution for the Indonesian market, targeting a different audience to MTV Asia.
The focus for now is extending the rebrand to MTV’s local feeds and licensees, regional channel head Paras Sharma tells Media Business Asia.
“We are already one of the most localized channels in Asia,” says Sharma, VP of MTV, Comedy Central and digital media for Viacom International Media Networks Asia.
“The next phase is to get this new MTV and branding rolled out in each of the markets.”
Within Asia, MTV runs local feeds in Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The channel is run by a JV with a local broadcast major in a JV in India (with Network18) and Korea (with SBS), and via licensees in Bangladesh (Creinse), the Philippines (Viva), Taiwan (Sanlih), Thailand (Music Ventures, formerly known as VR1) and Vietnam (IMS).
The regional Asia feed also airs across 15 markets.
The broader move to update MTV began earlier this year, Sharma explains, with a fresh approach and a bigger budget for programming, discarding a formerly TV-centric approach to production and scheduling, described by Sharma as “the most significant level of change” for the channel this year.
MTV also began diversifying its schedule with more entertainment programming and new concepts for reality shows, together with new genres such as food, mainly from MTV in the US.
Production budgets for Asia will tend to focus on mainstay music programming with some lifestyle content for now, such as weekly 30-minute magazine The MTV Show, now in its fourth season, and MTV News, a new format delivered as a series of bite-sized interstitials from 10am to midnight that launched in August.
In time, local markets could start making diverse shows too.
“At this stage, we are looking at some of the entertainment themes and programming to come from international,” Sharma says.
“When we think we ready and there’s enough appetite in the market for us go into localizing those genres, we will definitely move in that area.”
Earlier this year, MTV Asia also added a new tentpole event to the brand’s global repertoire, MTV Music Evolution, which showcases artists from different stages of a music genre’s development.
The inaugural event was staged in Manila in May, featuring a mix of local and international hip-hop stars.
MTV World Stage, another live franchise, also made its worldwide debut in Asia, in Malaysia in 2009.
Within Southeast Asia, MTV has established local strongholds in Malaysia, via its Asia feed, and the Philippines, where the channel has enjoyed a significant ratings lift among 12-24 year-olds since relaunching as MTV Pinoy at the beginning of last year.