MTV is a pop culture mainstay. The brand extends from the television screen to the computer screen, and from the newsstand to the polling place. It comes from the tongues of Madonna, Britney and Christina, to the nipple of Janet Jackson.
And naturally, its next move would be to the dorm room.
In October 2002, the Viacom-owned MTV Networks acquired CTN (College Television Network) and revamped it. It was re-launched as mtvU – a round-the-clock network dedicated to college students.
“MTV has been thinking about this for years and years…doing a channel in hopes to connect with students, offer a resource,” said Stephen Friedman, general manager of mtvU. “We acknowledge that college is a unique moment in life and we wanted to reflect those opportunities.”
Friedman and team were attracted to CTN because of its abundant distribution across college campuses, not only tapped into common areas but individual dorm rooms as well.
The resources were there but, according to Friedman, completely under-utilized.
“The motto of MTV and mtvU is that we worship at the altar of the audience,” he said. “We’re really irrelevant without them.”
This appreciation of the market yields to a programming lineup inspired or controlled entirely by students.
“The sense of discovery is what’s most exciting,” Friedman said. “There’s a sense of immediacy and access that college students demand and to filter new music and personalities through them is a huge part of our mission.”
Friedman marveled over Joss Stone who, three months ago, appeared on the Dean’s List (a front-running mtvU program) and is proof of how mtvU has helped propel songbirds toward success.
From awarding grants for community service to providing voting access, mtvU has an optimistic three-prong approach to winning the hearts and viewership of students nationwide: on-air, online and on-campus.
Currently up and running on more than 720 campuses, mtvU comes standard with the elements one would expect from a network synonymous with youth. This includes pretty VJs (Video Jockeys), talent sponsorships (the first is a North American tour of the Distillers) and a cross-promotional partnership with CBS to bring constant news and information on current events, lifestyle and entertainment.
Much like new academic policies or housing shuffles, mtvU will have to grind to win over the acceptance of the collegiate masses.
But the seeds are planted and the motivation clear and present. And hey, sometimes a little nipple helps.
Matt Donnelly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org