MTV Networks announced yesterday that it’ll invest $500 million in the expansion of gaming properties worldwide in the next two years. As the release puts it, the move “signal[s] the continued emergence of gaming as a key pillar in MTVN’s global vertical entertainment strategy.”
Of course, it’s also a sign that MTV is moving yet further away from the fundamental pillar on which it forged its name, music and music videos. When was the last time you watched an amazing music video on MTV? For that matter, when was the last time you watched any music video on MTV?
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing that investing in gaming is any bad thing (we just published an entire Special Report entitled The Power of Gaming, after all). And of course, evolution, as Darwin taught at least most of us, requires often radical change from those wishing to retain relevance and viability in an ever-morphing world.
But with these gaming investments and as the MTV motherchannel strays ever further from its musical foundation to flirt with reality TV and fawn over the young and allegedly fabulous, other media vehicles/vultures are moving in to scoop up the audience left behind. Their theory: It's not that young people don't want to watch music; they just require it to be presented to them in a smart, modern, relevant way.
HBO's experimenting at the moment, with its On Demand channel currently devoting time to teen hearthrob singer, Justin Timberlake. That includes showing his latest video, LoveStoned, (below), shot by Robert Hales. The video's really not bad, if you discount the awful second half, with its dream/heaven/oh-so-sincere singing-to-camera sequence. And it provides a nice interlude for casual channel flippers who can't decide what they want to watch but might be persuaded to stick around for five minutes.
But more interesting than the aesthetics of the promo is that HBO, a channel that's made its name with its smart programming (ok, ok, John from Cincinnati was really weird, but at least they had the grace to kill it off quickly) is dipping its toe in waters that MTV seems happy enough to exit.
As MTV shifts its focus from video to console in the name of its global vertical entertainment strategy, HBO is apparently looking to broadcast well-rounded entertainment packages of everything from comedy to music, playing and perhaps beating the erstwhile industry leader at its own game as it does so. Now is that, to paraphrase Alanis Morissette, ironic or what?