We Want Our MTV (International)
MTV, a division of Viacom International Media Networks and a mainstay of American pop culture, is just as popular in Shanghai as it is in Seattle and Sydney, or in Lagos (Nigeria) as it is in Los Angeles. MTV is a division of Viacom, and their international divisions are called the Viacom International Media Networks. London-based MTV Networks International, the world’s largest global network, has taken its winning formula to 167 foreign markets on six continents, including urban and rural areas. It reaches 4 billion homes in 40 languages through locally programmed and locally operated TV channels and websites. While the United States currently generates about 70 percent of MTV’s profits, 85 percent of the company’s subscriber base lives outside the United States.
The MTV brand has evolved beyond its music television roots into a multimedia lifestyle, entertainment, and culture brand for all ages. In addition to MTV and MTV2, its channel lineup includes Nickelodeon, VH1, Comedy Central, LOGO, TMF (The Music Factory), Game One, and several European music, comedy, and lifestyle channels, as well as Paramount Channel, Spike, and a growing number of flagship local networks such as Channel 5 in the UK, Telefe in Argentina, and COLORS in India. Adding to the complexity is MTV’s multimedia and interactive nature, with gaming, texting, and websites, as well as television. Another challenge is integrating acquisitions of local companies such as South American Telefe, which it purchased in 2016.
The company also has an international insights team that gathers the latest consumer insights from around the world. You can get some insight into this initiative at https://insights.viacom.com. The local perspective is invaluable in helping the network understand its markets, whether in terms of musical tastes or what entertainment children like. For example, Alex Okosi, a Nigerian who went to college in the United States, is chief executive for MTV Base, which launched in sub-Saharan Africa in 2005. Okosi recommended that MTV consider each country as an individual market, rather than blending them all together.
One reason for MTVNI’s success is “glocalization”—its ability to adapt programs to fit local cultures while still maintaining a consistent, special style. “When we set a channel up, we always provide a set of parameters in terms of standards of things we require,” an MTV executive explains. “Obviously an MTV channel that doesn’t look good enough is not going to do the business for us, let alone for the audience. There’s a higher expectation.” Then the local unit can tailor content to its market. MTV India conveys a “sense of the colorful street culture,” explains Bill Roedy, former MTV Networks International president, while MTV Japan has “a sense of technology edginess; MTV Italy, style and elegance.” In Africa, MTV Base features videos from top African artists as well as from emerging African music talent. According to company executives, the goal is to “provide a unique cultural meeting point for young people in Africa, using the common language of music to connect music fans from different backgrounds and cultures.”
- Do you think that MTV’s future lies mostly in its international operations? Explain your reasoning.
- What types of political, economic, and competitive challenges does MTV Networks International face by operating worldwide?
- How has MTV Networks International overcome cultural differences to create a world brand?
Sources: MTV Viacom Blog, http://blog.viacom.com, accessed June 30, 2017; MTV International website, http://www.mtv.com/, accessed June 30, 2017; MTV Consumer Insights website, https://insights.viacom.com, accessed June 30, 2017.