We are fighting a war against TikTok and Netflix. Candidly—and this doesn’t leave the building—MTV is not currently winning that war. I believe there’s still a path to victory, but we need to honestly assess our situation before we can confidently chart a course forward.
At MTV, we make the mold, and then we break the mold. That means turning over every rock to mine the unexplored depths of American youth culture. And you’ve done that! The pitches you sent me in Q4 have run the gamut: Beach Teenagers, Dangerous Youths, and Fun Rural People are all in our wheelhouse. Admittedly, I don’t always get the chance to read every one of your ideas, but I see them, or at least the subject lines. Still, our ratings continue to sink.
To kick off our company’s soul-searching, I’ll address the elephant in the room. Actually, scratch that. It may not even be an elephant—could be a rabbit, or something smaller, like a newt. But in the spirit of problem-solving and looking at every potential issue, I’ll introduce this mere flicker of a thought: It’s possible that I shouldn’t have greenlit a thousand episodes of Ridiculousness over the past eleven years.
Right away, I know what you’re thinking: “Whoa, John, slow down! You’re being too hard on yourself, big guy. What are you talking about, dude? That show rocks!” And to that, I’d respond: Look, we all love the show, but as I write this, it’s dinnertime here in New York. Ridiculousness came on at 6 p.m. It will air continuously, without interruption, until noon tomorrow. That means Rob Dyrdek, Chanel West Coast, and whoever the hell else we have on are being beamed into a quarter million homes across America for eighteen consecutive hours. Not even for a marathon or anything. Just like, a Wednesday.
Maybe I am too self-critical, but I keep wondering if airing a clip show for 75 percent of our broadcast schedule is helping us attract a new audience or even appeal to our existing one. What’s our strategy here? (That’s rhetorical, but I am open to suggestions. Email all ideas to Marge and tell her to copy me with the subject line “!!! READ THIS JOHN 911.”)
Consider this: Out of these offices and in the world, have you met a single person who has mentioned Ridiculousness even once? I haven’t. Further, do we even want the sort of people who would watch consecutive episodes of Ridiculousness to be fans of our network? I’m not sure we do.
Then there’s the Rob thing. It’s borderline cruel to make him host a thousand episodes of this show. Yeah, he signed the deals. But Rob is a bright guy. Think about his actual lived experience hosting this show, watching clips of idiots, on a stage with idiots, in front of an audience of idiots, for a thousand episodes. It’s psychotic. For context, America’s Funniest Home Videos has been on the air since 1989, had four different hosts, and “only” produced 752 episodes. Have we checked in on Rob’s well-being lately? This is an HR liability waiting to happen.
What’s worse, I recently learned that there have been four spinoffs: Amazingness, Deliciousness, Adorableness, and Messyness. Again, yes, I greenlit them and have a producer credit, move on. But, team, what are we doing? This is an embarrassment for all of us, and I invite you to join me in taking ownership of this disaster.
Accountability is everything. I preach it and I practice it, so I have no trouble admitting that I’ve been a little less in touch with our broadcast slate over the past ten years or so. Someone mentioned Teen Mom 2 this morning, and I thought that was about the teen moms’ children becoming teen moms. It’s not, but someone should run with that idea—we need some fresh thinking around here. There are no sacred cows, except for Snooki. And the handsome Catfish guy.
MTV was the network of TRL. Real World. Beavis and Butthead. Punk’d. Cribs. Laguna Beach. Jackass. Now we’re the clip show station. We’ve lost our way. Let’s get back to doing what we do best: building iconic cross-platform franchises around celebrity trainwrecks, or as we refer to them publicly, “larger-than-life personalities.”
While we figure out exactly how to do that, I’d like to announce a six-season pickup of Ridiculousness as well as plans for two new spinoffs, Obliviousness and Nothingness. I’m confident these shows will bridge the gap to MTV’s next great generation of programming.