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As TV programming moves to apps, a chance to put the ‘M’ back in MTV

August 4, 2015, 12:37 PM UTC
1992 MTV Video Music Awards
Flea on Bass Guitar (left) and Anthony Kiedis (right) of The Red Hot Chili Peppers (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Photograph by Jeff Kravitz — FilmMagic/Getty Images

In early July, A+E Networks announced the launch of Lifetime Movie Club, the television network’s first direct-to-consumer subscription service. For $3.99 a month, viewers get access to Lifetime’s library of movies without commercial interruptions—from She’s Too Young to The Perfect Teacher. They need only download the app from Apple’s App Store.

Lifetime’s original movies, widely regarded as guilty pleasures, aren’t everyone’s bag. But they’re a big reason why the network is a major player among female viewers during primetime. With limited airtime on traditional television, A+E executives thought they could make better use of the network’s stockpile of films. Why not put all of them to work on the Internet?

It’s a line of thinking that many TV executives seem to share lately. Time Warner (HBO, Showtime), CBS, Viacom (Nickelodeon), and the Tennis Channel have each introduced (or announced plans to introduce) video subscription apps that complement their traditional TV offerings and give viewers another opportunity to fork over money for old video content.

“It is a way of getting content from the vaults to a new audience and getting them to pay for it,” says Colin Dixon, chief analyst and founder of nScreenMedia. “It is a double-edged sword. The new stuff is what draws viewers to the cable channels in the first place. Some viewers may not be as interested in the content in the vaults.”

 

One network is a particularly interesting case: MTV. Parent company Viacom earlier this year announced plans to launch an MTV-branded music- and video-streaming app that would feature many of the network’s popular shows—as expected—but also top music videos.

For years, older generations have lamented how Viacom executives have refashioned a 34-year-old network once known as “Music Television” into one focused on reality shows. (The IFC sketch comedy series Portlandia even dedicated