Who Wants Their MTV?
ADWEEK|April 17, 2017

After Resuscitating Vh1, Chris Mccarthy Is Ready To Save Another Viacom Brand.

Jason Lynch

When he first started working at Viacom in 2004, Chris McCarthy harbored what he considered a shameful secret: his educational background. Then a freelance director of marketing for MTVU, MTV’s online network for college students, he kept quiet about the fact that he had received his MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton business school, after studying commerce and engineering at Drexel University.

“I was maybe the fifth MBA to get a job here, and I purposely did not talk about it, because at the time, it was so not a cool thing to do,” says McCarthy. But actions speak louder than words, and his hush-hush, unconventional background for a TV exec soon became his secret weapon: “I always took the projects that nobody wanted. In my mind, every problem is fixable. It’s just how you get there, and do you believe you can actually solve it?”

Over the past 13 years, McCarthy’s methodical, Money ball-like approach to rejuvenating Viacom’s networks has proven that he is peerless when it comes to fixing seemingly unsalvageable problems. First there was MTV2, where he became gm in 2009, followed by Logo, which he took over in 2013. That led to VH1 in July 2015, where he was named gm, and promoted to president of VH1 and Logo less than a year later. Finally, last October, McCarthy was given his most grandiose challenge yet: he was named president of MTV as well, becoming the third network chief in 13 months tasked with trying to revive the iconic, adrift brand, which had been hemorrhaging viewers for years.

When MTV launched in 1981, it would become the defining network for several generations (see timeline). But since Jersey Shore ended in 2012, the brand has lost its way, leading many to wonder if it could ever be relevant again. Not McCarthy. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he says. “It is the youth culture brand, and the opportunity to reinvent it is like no other.”

If anyone knows how to breathe new life into a dormant Viacom music brand, it’s McCarthy—based on his track record. In three years, he took MTV2 from 21st to fifth in the male 12-24 demo, while under his watch Logo saw 10 consecutive quarters of year-over-year growth in adults 18-49. More recently, he led VH1 to seven consecutive quarters of year-over-year total day growth in the channel’s key adults 18-49 demo; last year was the network’s highest rated since 2010.

Now Viacom, which is back on its feet again after a tumultuous 2016 (see sidebar), is looking to McCarthy to save one of its most prized assets. In the past five years, the audience in MTV’s 18-34 demo has fallen almost 50 percent, according to Nielsen, while MTV’s estimated ad revenue plummeted 24 percent—to $619.8 million in 2016 from $817.5 million in 2012—according to SNL Kagan.

But the brand’s dog days are finally over, believes Robert Bakish, who was named president and CEO of Viacom last December, and praises McCarthy’s “progression of success. He knows how to build a loyal audience, and he’s very analytical.”

After getting the MTV job last fall, McCarthy quickly formulated his vision for the network: bring back the teens and women who had fled by shifting the focus from scripted shows back to unscripted, coming-of-age themed series, and most importantly, reestablish the brand’s live bonafides.

His new shows don’t start airing until next month, but McCarthy’s early scheduling moves and content tweaks are already yielding dividends: 18-34 demo ratings jumped 10 percent from February to March, and in the first quarter of 2017, MTV was a top 5 cable entertainment network in the demo.

Yet again, McCarthy’s once-secret business and engineering background appears to be paying off. “He has this unique ability to use his left and right brain at exactly the same time, and see things many of us don’t. He can look at something in front of him—whether it’s creative or an immense amount of data— and within seconds, know how to break that down,” says Amy Doyle, gm for MTV, VH1 and Logo. “Usually you’re great at one thing or the other, and he is somehow masterful at both.”

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM ADWEEKView All

Whole Foods' Will Chau Has Had A Scrappy Path

The path of Whole Foods Market’s global director of creative and branding has been a scrappy one.

3 mins read
ADWEEK
March 4, 2019

This Is Your Brain On Marketing

Brands toy with sensors to better understand their customers.

3 mins read
ADWEEK
March 4, 2019

The Barbie Doll

On the eve of her 60th birthday, a look at. America's most primped, perfect and polarizing plaything.

3 mins read
ADWEEK
February 25, 2019

Marketing Needs To Be Inclusive

Diversity efforts must be authentic and go further than checking off a box.

3 mins read
ADWEEK
February 25, 2019

OMD

The agency clawed it's way back to the top by making ‘better decisions, faster’.

6 mins read
ADWEEK
February 25, 2019

Meet The New Broadcast TV Chiefs

After taking over last fall at ABC, FOX, and NBC, these four execs are ready to reveal their strategies.

6 mins read
ADWEEK
February 25, 2019

Initiative

Today’s media agencies face a new slew of challenges, as more clients slash budgets, issue RFPs and take everything in-house, from planning to programmatic. But clients aren’t the only ones making big changes. Both OMD and Initiative bounced back from challenging years with strategic pivots, picking up new business from brands like Daimler Mercedes, Liberty Mutual, Revlon and the U.S. Army. Breakthrough network Essence transcended its reputation as Google’s digital resource to score new partnerships with BP, Peloton, T-Mobile and more while doubling its headcount and adding 11 offices around the world. On the work front, these shops proved their media mettle with headlining campaigns for Amazon, McDonald’s, Target, USA Network … and who could forget the International House of Burgers? Read on to find out why these three earned Adweek’s Media Agency of the Year honors

5 mins read
ADWEEK
February 25, 2019

Essence

A strong vision and a key investment from holding company WPP Fueled an incredible year.

5 mins read
ADWEEK
February 25, 2019

Eryk Rich

Deutsch’s Head Of Music Straddles The Record And Advertising Industries.

2 mins read
ADWEEK
February 25, 2019

Agencies Scramble Over OTT

Investment teams try to get up to speed while they educate clients.

3 mins read
ADWEEK
February 25, 2019
RELATED STORIES

NICK CANNON FUMES OVER HIS FIRING FOR RACIST RANT

DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM ‘WILD ‘N OUT’ TV BIG SHOTS

1 min read
National Enquirer
August 03, 2020

BODY-SHAMED MILEY SWEARS OFF TWERKING!

WILD child Miley Cyrus has vowed never to twerk again — after internet trolls compared her to a turkey!

1 min read
National Enquirer
April 06, 2020

SUNG HEROES OF SOUTH KOREA

Stans of Korean boy band BTS aka Bangtan Sonyeondan have much to be thrilled about, as South Korea’s parliament passed a bill recently that will allow globally recognized K-Pop artists to postpone their joining in military service till the age of 30

4 mins read
FHM Fit
January 2021

Golden Girl: Happy 40th Birthday, Holly!

As she enters a new decade ok! Traces Holly Willoughby’s path to telly stardom

7 mins read
OK! UK
February 08, 2021

Marnie and Casey back on track after relationship fears

The former Geordie Shore star is desperate to give their romance another chance

3 mins read
New UK
January 18, 2021

YEAR OF THE TIGER

ADARSH GOURAV HAS BAGGED A BIGGIE IN THE WHITE TIGER. VEDANSHI PATHAK MEETS THE EXCITED YOUNGSTER

3 mins read
Filmfare
November 2020

XR Studios selects disguise as central technology hub for 2020 MTV VMAs

The first major awards show in the US to be broadcast since the pandemic was held on 30th August, when the socially distant MTV Video Music Awards were telecast from New York City. XR Studios selected the disguise xR workflow, powered by the latest disguise gx 2c media server, as the show’s central technology hub.

1 min read
Digital Studio
October 2020

BIBI MCGILL

Bibi McGill – the former lead guitarist and musical director for R&B icon Beyoncé – is also a producer, DJ, masterclass mentor and yogi. We check in with the American guitar guru mid-lockdown to talk music making, inspiration and finding inner peace…

10 mins read
Guitarist
September 2020

THE COOL KIDS

From travelling the world, jamming to top tunes, and interviewing A-list celebrities, this OG gang of VJs was our window to all things hip

6 mins read
Grazia
July 2020

LAUGHTER RIOT

The OGs of comedy talk about the then and now of the Indian comic scene

6 mins read
Grazia
July 2020