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MTV, after moving away from music, glances to the past to glimpse the future

November 24, 2010 |  3:10 pm

Although it dropped the word “music” from its logo earlier this year, MTV is still searching for the right chord.

The main MTV channel hasn’t had a prominent series devoted to musical trends or artists for more than a year, instead riding such popular and rough-hewn reality shows as "Jersey Shore" and "Teen Mom." Distancing itself from music became something of a sore point among some viewers who worried that MTV was straying too far from its roots. 

Now the 29-year-old network has tweaked its management structure to place a higher priority on the development of shows that feature recording artists. Signaling the revived effort, the executive in charge of music and talent, Amy Doyle, was recently given additional responsibilties and now has a direct line to one of the network’s programming heads.

NickiManaj MTV hopes to duplicate the success of the reality series "The Osbournes," which was spun off from "MTV Cribs," the network's long-running series that showcases celebrities and athletes in their homes. Featuring befuddled heavy metal rock star Ozzy Osbourne being outmaneuvered by his family members, "The Osbournes," which launched in 2002, revitalized the English baby boomer rocker's career and became a cultural phenomenon.

“The history of our music development has sort of ebbed and flowed over the years,” Doyle said. “We’re always coming up with ways to express music across the channel’s different platforms. Recently we said, `Let’s figure out a way to do this more effectively.' This [structure] simply establishes a more formal process.” 
 
Doyle now reports to both Chris Linn, who was recently named MTV’s ranking New York-based programming executive, and the network's general manager, Stephen Friedman. Linn's expanded portfolio includes overseeing music development as well as reality shows on the East Coast. He's also been tasked with developing made-for-TV movies, including those that could morph into ongoing series. 

This month's management overhaul, which installed David Janollari as head of programming, also was aimed at finding more scripted shows to add to the mix. MTV executives have acknowledged that they hung onto chasing the cynical sensibilities of Generation X a bit too long and were slow in responding to the optimism of the Millennials who came to the fore around the time of President Obama's election. The network now is focusing on diversity in programming.

AmyDoyle08 Owned by Viacom Inc., MTV continues to run its weekly countdown show "10 on Top" on Saturday mornings and the network is pleased with the traction of its topical weekday afternoon series "The Seven," which highlights cultural trends and sizzling news stories. Recording artists, including Rihanna, have performed on "The Seven," which launched in September and is averaging 300,000 viewers per episode.


And on Sunday night, MTV plans to premiere a documentary that delves into the rise of Nicki Minaj, one of the hip-hop world's most promising young artists. The success of that program could give MTV even more incentive to build upon the genre -- and perhaps create a regular series around Minaj.

"Our goals are to continue to identify hot new talent and this is a slightly more organized way to develop shows,” Linn said of the new arrangement. “Working smarter should lead to more and stronger programming.”

-- Meg James

Photo of Nicki Minaj (upper left) by Mark Ralston / AFP /Getty Images

Photo of Amy Doyle (lower right), courtesy of MTV

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