MTV is using its sketch comedy show “Wild ’N Out” as a model for how the Viacom-owned cable network can take fuller advantage of expanding its linear shows into standalone properties online.
MTV has renewed “Wild ’N Out,” which stars actor-rapper Nick Cannon, for a 13th season that will begin production in Atlanta within the next few weeks. However the show won’t only be filming episodes for its TV run; it will take two days out of the production schedule to shoot videos for the YouTube channel it debuted in July. While having bonus digital content sounds like a tried-and-true strategy for TV networks to promote their shows to online audiences — and it is — MTV is also developing an original series exclusively for the show’s digital audience to underscore the show’s position as anchor of the network’s push to use digital platforms for more than marketing and broaden its TV properties into bigger standalone franchises.
“For MTV and VH1, our president Chris McCarthy is really focused on [viewing the networks’ shows as intellectual property]. IP is our currency. So how can we extend IP across every content format or distribution platform available, whether it’s a linear program or a YouTube channel,” said Tyler Hissey, vp of marketing and social media at MTV and VH1.
Previously, MTV had posted clips of “Wild ’N Out” to the network’s own YouTube channel. But after seeing that people were drawn specifically to the show’s videos, in July 2018 the network converted its MTV2 YouTube channel into a channel dedicated specifically to “Wild ’N Out” and has since seen the channel’s audience and viewership grow. According to data from Tubular Labs, the show’s YouTube channel received 112 million views in August, up from 3 million views in June, the month before MTV converted its MTV2 YouTube channel into the “Wild ’N Out” channel.
MTV has not been able to track how the YouTube channel may have impacted the number of people tuning into its TV episodes, but Hissey doesn’t think the channel has hurt its TV viewership, he said. If anything, the YouTube channel may have raised the show’s profile among a different audience than those watching it on TV. The show’s YouTube audience is 70 percent male, whereas its TV audience is 60 percent female, and the YouTube audience also skews younger than the TV one, Hissey said.
In light of the YouTube channel’s popularity, MTV is now looking to program specifically for that audience. This fall, while “Wild ’N Out” is between TV seasons, MTV will premiere a digital-only series on the show’s YouTube channel. Called “Your Life in Rhyme,” the show will feature “Wild ’N Out” cast member Justina Valentine going up to people in Times Square, asking for three facts about their lives and then creating a freestyle rap from that on the spot. MTV got the idea for the digital series after posting cast member-specific compilation videos to the show’s YouTube channel and seeing viewers gravitate to Valentine’s, which has received more than 10 million views since July.
While MTV is expanding “Wild ’N Out” into effectively its own digital franchise, the strategy still skews more toward marketing than standalone monetization. For now, MTV is not looking to post full episodes of the show to YouTube because the TV airings make money more effectively, said Hissey. One day that could change if YouTube, Facebook or some other digital platform show that they can bring in as much, if not more, money than the TV airings, but even now MTV is bundling the show’s digital videos into a larger package with advertisers that includes its TV inventory.
YouTube isn’t the only platform that MTV is using to grow the show’s digital footprint. Videos posted to the YouTube channel are syndicated on the show’s Facebook Watch page and are often edited for Facebook-owned Instagram. Episodes of “Your Life in Rhyme” will be cross-posted to YouTube and Facebook, and MTV is considering editing versions of the episodes for Instagram’s new long-form video platform, IGTV.
However, YouTube remains, at least for now, the backbone of the show’s digital distribution, beyond MTV’s own site and apps, which require people to sign in with a pay-TV account to watch full episodes. On Facebook and Instagram, video viewing remains something of a drive-by experience where people watch a video that happens to appear in their feeds, whereas YouTube has proven itself as a platform for intentional video viewership. With the “Wild ’N Out” YouTube channel, MTV has seen that people can spend 40 to 50 minutes at a time watching videos, Hissey said.
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