TV Upfront

MTV's Upfront Presentation is a Real 'Scream' for Movie, QSR Clients

Network Looks to Make a Killing with New Slasher Series

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MTV's 'Scream'
MTV's 'Scream'

While it's probably inaccurate to suggest that any television conglomerate is going to make a killing in this year's upfront, MTV is taking a stab at leading its corner of the marketplace with a new horror franchise.

Based on the 1996 theatrical release of the same title, and its three sequels, MTV's "Scream" puts a millennial-friendly spin on the narrative with a cyber-bullying incident that leads to a string of ritual murders. Executive produced by Bob and Harvey Weinstein and Wes Craven, MTV's adaptation premieres Tuesday, June 30, at 10 p.m.

As one might expect, the quaint trappings of the mid-'90s have been upgraded -- the shrill ringing of Drew Barrymore's land line has been replaced by ringtones and Siri's two-note chirrup -- but the "Scream" series retains the winking knowingness of the movies. Indeed, the official "Scream" trailer is built around the franchise's signature meta-commentary on the nature of slasher films. "You can't do a slasher movie as a TV series," says the genre-obsessed teen who's clearly a Jamie Kennedy proxy. "Slasher movies burn bright and fast. By the time the first body's found, it's only a matter of time before the bloodbath commences."

MTV on Tuesday afternoon gave media buyers a preview of "Scream" during its upfront presentation at New York's Beacon Theatre, screening the first seven minutes of the pilot.

As the sneak peek suggests, while the producers have ditched the iconic "Ghostface" mask worn by the killers in each "Scream" movie, the TV version won't shy away from the bloody particulars of the genre. Expect a high body count, and the usual volley of outrage from self-appointed watchdog groups like the Parents Television Council. As basic cable networks are not in thrall to the same regulatory constraints under which broadcast TV labors, such handwringing is largely ineffectual. It's up to the advertisers to decide whether the content is appropriate, and they vote with their checkbooks.

MTV has ordered 10 one-hour episodes of "Scream," which will premiere out of the network's legacy horror series, "Teen Wolf."

All told, MTV has eight new series in the hopper for 2015-16. Its slate includes the fantasy drama "The Shannara Chronicles," a pair of late-night talk shows ("Girl Code Live" and "Middle of the Night Show") and a docu-series about the Queens, N.Y. rapper and actor Ja Rule.

Based on a series of novels by Terry Brooks, "The Shannara Chronicles" marks MTV's first foray into fantasy. Jon Favreau ("Iron Man," "The Avengers") is an executive producer on the show.

"We're exploding our development process across screens -- getting faster, more daring, putting more projects into play and taking bigger swings than ever," said Stephen Friedman, president of MTV, by way of unveiling the network's platform-agnostic new slate. "We've exponentially expanded the ways we connect with our audience and deliver for our advertisers."

Among the returning summer series MTV announced Tuesday were: "Catfish: The TV Show" (July 8), "Teen Mom 2" (July 9) and the hit scripted comedy "Awkward" (August 31).

According to, MTV in the last 12 months has run spots for 938 brands across 321,000 ad units. The network generates the bulk of its ad sales revenue from movie studios, which account for nearly 12% of MTV's total ad dollars. Skin-and-foot-care brands (7%) and QSR franchises (6%) are also key partners.

On an individual brand basis, Proactiv is the most active linear-TV client and Taco Bell is MTV's biggest QSR client. The movie studios most active on MTV are Twentieth Century Fox and corporate sibling Paramount Pictures.

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