MTV wants to make TV shows for streaming services like Netflix, and it’s starting with ‘The Real World’ and ‘Aeon Flux’


  • MTV is launching MTV Studios, which will make shows for streaming services like Neflix, Amazon, and Hulu.
  • The network will use its library of IP to kickstart development, starting with shows like “The Real World” and “Aeon Flux.”
  • MTV president Chris McCarthy tells Business Insider he wants the network to be “platform agnostic.”
  • No distribution deals have currently been announced.

For the past few years, MTV has faced a fundamental dilemma: What does a TV network for young people do when they are, quite simply, not watching as much TV?

MTV has boosted its TV ratings by doubling down on classic franchises like “Jersey Shore,” but there’s a natural ceiling on how much you can do on cable TV today. To fully reach young people, you have to stretch beyond a strict definition of TV.

On Wednesday, MTV made a step toward a “platform agnostic” future by unveiling MTV Studios, which will make original shows for streaming services. “Netflix, Apple, Hulu, and Amazon” were examples of potential distributors that MTV president Chris McCarthy listed to Business Insider in a recent interview (he’s also in charge of VH1 and Logo).

MTV announced a few big reboots currently being developed – including “The Real World,” a live-action “Aeon Flux,” and “Daria” – though the distribution deals with specific streaming services haven’t been finalised.

Chris mccarthy MTVGetty / Eugene Gologursky / StringerChris McCarthy – President – MTV, VH1 and Logo Media

McCarthy was frank about MTV’s need to emphasise brand over platform: “There are not enough teens [watching] traditional cable.” Full stop. But they are watching more video than ever.

That presents an opportunity for MTV, according to McCarthy. “MTV was one of the first cable brands,” he said, and the overwhelming majority of its shows were produced by MTV itself, to the tune of over 200 original series and franchises. “We own that IP,” he said, and it doesn’t have to be confined to traditional TV.

The idea behind MTV Studios is to use that IP to inspire reboots, spin-offs, or completely new series. But instead of playing on MTV’s cable channel, they will be on Netflix (or another streaming service).

“We actually see the platforms really differently” than we see cable, McCarthy said. Traditional cable viewers come for live sports, competition shows, and docuseries, he said. Everything else is moving toward on-demand and streaming.

“For scripted and animation, we are going to focus that more on an SVOD [streaming video on demand] partner,” he said of MTV’s strategy moving forward. Unscripted, traditionally an MTV strength, will be more balanced between TV and streaming.

Distributing shows in places like Netflix, instead of on your own cable channel, gives up a certain amount of control – whether they renewed or promoted, for instance. Is McCarthy worried: “No, not at all,” he said.

One reason is that selling shows to other people is a good business to be in right now.

“Based on the data we have, it appears to us that the net winners from SVOD growth from a revenue perspective are the independent producers,” analysts at RBC wrote in a recent report. They also noted the “near-zero” for showrunners and producers. There’s a lot of demand out there for premium streaming shows.

MTV will certainly find a receptive ear when it comes to rebooting old classics. Netflix has been on a reboot spree – from “Full House” to “Gilmore Girls” to “Queer Eye.” And the streaming giant has recently made a push into unscripted content as well.

Mtv studios logoMTV

MTV has already signed up some big names for its new slate, including Jeff Davis, the creator of “Criminal Minds” and “Teen Wolf.”

“Jeff was a huge fan of ‘Aeon Flux,'” McCarthy said. “It was one of the ones he was focused on.” If it wasn’t for Davis, McCarthy said, the upcoming live-action take on “Aeon Flux” probably wouldn’t have happened.

And look out for many unscripted projects. McCarthy spoke about the streaming potential to bring franchises like “The Real World” to a “whole new generation,” and to try reality TV that doesn’t have that traditional over-the-top tone, the “amplification that is necessary to succeed in cable.” (Admittedly, MTV had a big hand in crafting that tone: see “Jersey Shore.”)

One of the new shows meant to appeal to young people is called “The Valley,” which is a “docuseries” in the vein of “The Hills” or “Laguna Beach” but set in Nogales, Arizona, a border town. MTV describes it as “the real life story of friends who are growing up on the edge of two countries, two cities as they share one.” The show is meant to present “first loves, relationships and life decisions.”

“If we did ‘Laguna Beach’ today, we would do it on” a streaming service, McCarthy said.

Now we have to wait and see which streaming services will bite.

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