MTV is trying to put the music back in music television.
The cable network that popularized the music video plans to air its first weekly live music series in almost 20 years, as well as a music competition series from “Survivor” producer Mark Burnett and a new version of the “MTV Unplugged” performance series. MTV executives announced the plans Thursday at a presentation for advertisers in New York.
“We are re-asserting our DNA,” Sean Atkins, president of the network, said in an interview. “MTV has to be the network that gives voice to youth and gives artists a voice to speak to youth. Music is our muse.”
This renewed focus on music is a key part of Viacom’s efforts to revitalize one of the most recognizable brands in modern pop culture, and lure a new generation of young viewers who have replaced “Total Request Live” with YouTube and Snapchat. With more competition and fewer fresh hits, MTV has hemorrhaged viewers in recent years.
Prime-time viewership is down about 4 percent this season, after a double-digit decline a year earlier, as young people turn to online video for more of their entertainment. The ratings decline, along with viewer losses at Comedy Central and Nickelodeon, has made Viacom vulnerable in negotiations with pay-TV providers like Dish Network Corp., which has pressured the media company to rein in prices or face the threat of a blackout. The two companies announced a new long-term deal Thursday.
MTV will announce 14 new series during the presentation, the most in network history, and almost all of them have ties to music and pop culture. For “Wonderland,” the weekly music show, MTV will stage concerts at a loft in downtown Los Angeles that can accommodate multiple bands and comedy acts, inviting in the same youth who used to flock to New York’s Times Square for “TRL” and to beaches for MTV’s spring break festivities.