Media Mavens 2010

Media Mavens: Colleen Fahey Rush, MTV Networks

Longtime TV Exec's Not-So-Secret Key to Success Is Homing in on What Her Viewers Want -- and Delivering

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Understanding the zeitgeist has always been the greatest selling point -- as well as challenge -- of MTV Networks channels MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, VH1, Spike, TV Land and Logo. As the long tail of niche media continues to rely more on scalable audiences and results-driven ad deals, how can anyone working with so many networks even begin to keep up with their disparate viewers?

Colleen Fahey Rush
Colleen Fahey Rush
For Colleen Fahey Rush, exec VP-strategic insights and research at MTV Networks, this challenge begins and ends with the viewers themselves. In recent months, Ms. Fahey Rush has been working with each of the networks' programming and research teams to create dedicated brand filters that ensure every show that gets greenlighted has a laser focus on its audience. That strategy has yielded MTV's highest ratings in eight years thanks to mega-hits such as "Jersey Shore" and the 2010 Video Music Awards, the network's third-highest-rated telecast ever; it assisted Comedy Central's breakout show "Tosh.0" and TV Land's Betty White sitcom "Hot in Cleveland," the most-watched show on the boomer-targeted cable network; and it prompted Nickelodeon to order a series based on popular YouTube personality Fred Figglehorn.

"Really fine-tuning what today's viewers are all about has helped define the kind of programming we're putting on the air," Ms. Fahey Rush said. "With something like Comedy Central, when you think about how people in their 20s now are millennials, they have a different concept of comedy, and we need to be aware of that. So 'Tosh.0' is a great example of how we're appealing to that younger audience. There's a lot of research we do for ourselves, and being able to share that with advertisers has become a bit of a calling card for us."

To wit, MTV Networks has made more than 220 audience-centric presentations to more than 3,500 media execs in the past year alone, proof that there's high demand for its strategic insights into the kids, millennials, boomers and all the ages in between that make up their audiences.

Ms. Fahey Rush has spent enough time in the trenches to earn the respect of her colleagues, and she is the chairman of the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement, a cross-media consortium of 22 top marketers, media companies and ad agencies seeking to identify and invest in best practices for audience measurement. Working with CIMM Managing Director Jane Clarke, Ms. Fahey Rush's goal is to bring new insights to the media marketplace with initiatives such as a U.S. adaptation of the U.K.'s landmark "Touchpoints" study of cross-platform media consumption, as well as a lexicon and forthcoming white paper to help members better understand set-top-box data.

"There's no standard language among set-top-box data providers and users, so we commissioned a white paper to detail all the challenges but also the opportunities," she said. "We see set-top-box data, when it's fused with other data, as a big opportunity."

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