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Going retro to make progress—MTV finding success with reboots

by | Apr 27, 2018 | Analysis, Public Relations

Even as more entertainment sources are popping up left and right, from streaming original content to YouTube Red and countless individual channels and podcasts, big entertainment companies are betting on past success—which brings with it guaranteed media and public relations attention—to bolster sales. Reboots have become all the rage, especially those that call back to the 1980s and 90s.

MTV already scored one moderately successful reboot with the relaunch of “Total Request Live.” The show, marketed as “TRL,” was a huge hit for the network, beginning in the late 90s. Now, MTV hopes lighting will strike twice as it has announced the intention to relaunch an updated, modernized version of “Yo! MTV Raps.”

There’s plenty of people saying the reasons for this reboot are good ones

Rap has never enjoyed more mainstream popularity, outselling rock in the past year. The biggest difference, though, is that when “Yo! MTV Raps” debuted in August of 1988, it was considered a risk, a very controversial move. The airwaves were dominated by rock and pop acts, and that was MTV’s bread and butter. Many were unsure how “real” the popularity of rap was in the mainstream market. It was nowhere near a sure thing, and that’s part of what made the program appealing.

MTV hopes to recapture some of the renegade nostalgia by kicking off the reboot with a 30th anniversary celebration featuring popular “Raps” alums such as Flavor Flav, Doug E. Fresh, Ed Lover, Doctor Dre and T-Money. From there, though, the nostalgia will give way to a “reinvention” of the program for “a new generation.”

Rap is no longer counter-culture. It’s well entrenched in the mainstream pop scene. The days when fans were shocked to see acts like Run-DMC and Aerosmith collaborating are long gone. These days, it’s almost shocking not to see a pop-rock act contributing to a rap album. That built-in mainstream audience is exactly what MTV needs at the moment.

MTV viewership continues to wane

The network, which once held the reins of teen pop culture, is increasingly less relevant. These days, YouTube stars have more credibility in certain teen market segments. MTV is almost considered passé, something their parents watched. “TRL” has helped, at least a bit. With that as a small light, MTV has expanded “TRL” into three separate programs: the standard program, a morning show, and a late-night version.

These retread spin-offs received an underwhelming response, so MTV went back into the past for a reboot of “Jersey Shore,” called “Vacation,” that hit pretty well. About 10 million people watched that episode of the reboot, making it the most watched unscripted debut on cable since 2011, according to media reports.

MTV is hoping for similar success with “Raps,” as well as a reboot of “Fear Factor.” If Gen Z has decided the network belongs to their parents, who are they to argue?

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Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and Chairman of 5W Public Relations: 5WPR is one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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