As the financial engine of the new standalone Viacom, the group is under pressure from Wall Street to grab as many of the available digital dollars as possible and at last night's upfront held at New York's Madison Square Garden, the group did its best to sell that multiplatform smorgasbord. Viacom Chairman-CEO Tom Freston has been known to tell Wall Street that MTV takes in 25% of every dollar spent in cable. Last year, total cable booked $6 billion in last year's upfront, which means MTV's take would have been as much as $1.5 billion.
MTV owns the very viewers driving the digital revolution, MTV Network Chairman-CEO Judy McGrath told attendees. "In a lot of ways, the technology has finally caught up with us. We are the only pure-play content company with a global footprint and a multi-media playbook."
In between entertainment acts -- such as singer Kanye West and Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert -- MTV executives talked the latest buzz word, "engagement," and offered up new research suggesting that brands benefit from a positive feeling attached to the channel environment.
MTVN Exec VP-Research Chief Colleen Fahey Rush used the word "transference" to describe that very effect. Ms. Rush presented soundbites from an MTVN study, conducted with consumer research firm OTX, that discovered that engagement and transference grow when advertisers embrace multiple platforms and that regular viewers of the channels are more strongly engaged with the ads they see vs. the viewers of broadcast and cable.
Getting some laughs
The upfront presentation featured plenty of humor, such as a spoof of VH1's "Best Week Ever" titled "Best ROI ever," which showed comedians delighting in packets of Starburst candy, and a clip of "Dora The Explorer" telling advertisers they were jaded when they refused to repeat the word "multiplatform."
Perhaps the most compelling research presented by MTVN focused on the nascent Logo, a gay-themed channel. MediaCom U.S. Chairman Jon Mandel appeared in a short video to extol the benefits of advertising with Logo. "Nine-and-a-half million customers each week [watching Logo] are gay. Target them," he said.
Among the 50 advertisers on the channel are Tylenol, Subaru, Bacardi and Budweiser. According to MTV, 73% of 1,500 people surveyed said they are more inclined to buy a product advertised on Logo than on any other channel, while 80% are more likely to watch the commercials on Logo compared to when they watch another network. Logo is available in 20 million homes.
Separately, MTV Networks also announced it will begin selling airtime in the third quarter on VH1 Soul. The network, which is available in 20 million homes, has a core audience of upscale adult African-Americans.