Network Responds to Criticism of Coverage Despite Strong Ratings

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NEW YORK ( -- Starting today, MTV Networks is getting another crack at Live 8 coverage, after its original broadcast was panned by critics as “choppy and chirpy.” MTV also received complaints about the coverage from more than 2,000 viewers, according to the Associated Press.
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Tonight it will air a half-hour news special, Live 8: Next Steps, and tomorrow, starting at 10 a.m., VH1 will broadcast five straight hours of commercial-free performances from the worldwide concerts, followed by five more straight hours on MTV.

Viewers complained that many anticipated performances were not seen in their entirety and that the network ran too many promotional ads plugging its own programming.

MTV's misstep
“They should have gone commercial free or put it on tape delay in the first place,” said Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research for Horizon Media.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune music critic Chris Riemenschneider ripped VH1’s coverage in a post-show review of the concerts, writing: “If any Africans saw the promos for 'Stripsearch' or the Jerry Hall loss-of-reality show, they probably thought we're the ones who need help.”

Some complained Live 8 coverage seemed out of place on MTV because the network has replaced much of its music programming with pop culture shows.

Does 'M' stand for music?
While extending its brand to create a youth culture network is much more difficult than “slapping together some music videos, in a sense one of the great misnomers is the ‘M’ doesn’t stand for music,” Mr. Adgate said.

Despite critical and viewer complaints, the network captured a cumulative multi-generational audience of 18 million throughout last Saturday’s eight-hour broadcasts on MTV and VH1. Walt Disney Co.’s ABC didn’t fare as well, attracting only 2.1 million viewers for its two-hour prime-time special.

One high-ranking media executive cited a TrimSpa ad that aired on ABC directly after an anti-poverty message. “That’s just bad trafficking,” he said. ABC said it was a “time buy,” meaning the network didn’t sell the ad; either an affiliate or the producer sold the ad.

Critical success for AOL
AOL’s coverage, meanwhile, has been deemed a critical success. Though its 5 million viewers between noon and 8 p.m. Saturday was a fraction of the 18 million who cumulatively tuned into MTV and VH1’s broadcast, it’s been hailed as a “tipping point” in how Americans consume media.

“I think it’s a bellwether,” Mr. Adgate said. “It’s like, ‘You know [cable] guys, you’re going to get competition.’”

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