MTV Expanding 'TRL' Franchise to Add Late-Night and Morning Editions

Network president Chris McCarthy talks with THR about his plans to air versions of the franchise over three dayparts by summer.
Courtesy of MTV
From right: hosts DC Young Fly, Tamara Dhia and The Dolan Twins in the 'TRL' studio

Updated, April 5: MTV confirmed it is expanding the Total Request Live franchise, fast-tracking an hourlong weekday morning edition — Total Request AM, which was set to air in the summer — to launch Monday, April 23 at 8 a.m. MTV News veteran Sway Calloway will host; a co-host will be announced shortly. The morning edition will air with limited commercials and feature musical performances, celebrity interviews and a music video countdown. Meanwhile, the revived TRL afternoon edition will be pushed back from its early April return to air in tandem with the morning version on April 23 at 3 p.m. The Total Request LateNight edition will expand to three nights a week in the summer and to four nights by year's end.

Previous, March 14: Total Request Live, MTV's reboot of the former Carson Daly music and interview show, is not going anywhere. In fact, the Viacom-owned cable network plans to grow the franchise to include three different dayparts.

After TMZ posted that MTV was canceling the revived TRL, network president Chris McCarthy (who also oversees VH1 and Logo) spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his plan to expand beyond the current afternoon edition — which, contrary to reports, will return in April as planned — as well as morning and late-night offshoots. All told, a version of TRL will air three times a day on the linear network starting this summer, according to McCarthy.

"It's thriving. We're expanding the franchise and will have three TRLs by summer," McCarthy tells THR. (The revival's October premiere drew just 166,000 live same-day viewers.) "TRL has delivered incredible growth on linear, and we've experienced two to three times the growth in our video streams, and TRL is a big piece of it — and that's why we're expanding it; we want more."

MTV has been quietly piloting an on-air late-night version of the franchise — Total Request Late-Night, which started Feb. 19 and has been airing twice a week at 11 p.m. — and will expand that to four nights a week come summer, McCarthy says. "It's a top three series at 11 p.m.," he notes of the evening series, which is up 188 percent among adults 18-34 over its previous programming. The half-hour series is currently fronted by Girl Code breakout Nessa, though it is expected to add other rotating hosts. The late-night version will be part "aftershow," targeting some of MTV's tentpole programs — like Jersey Shore, for example — as well as featuring music, live performances, celebrity guests and more. The series will launch full time — four nights a week — in the summer and target adults 18-34.

Also in the works for the summer is Total Request A.M., which will be a curated Spotify list of sorts and be a "pure music play," McCarthy says — without commercials — and feature a more traditional video countdown as well as music performances. A host for the morning version, which will run an hour a day, has not yet been determined. MTV is currently curating both the late-night and morning editions without a showrunner for the time being.

The afternoon version of TRL, which launched Oct. 2, will still return April 9 as planned as a two-hour block with its roster of rotating hosts and social media stars serving as correspondents. The series, which will feature music videos, interviews, performances and skits, will shift to focus on a younger demo — 12-24 — when it returns.  

"We've always had the March hiatus planned," McCarthy says of the flagship afternoon edition. "We're expanding to target different demographics and dayparts. … All three [versions of TRL] will be airing by June. We have no plans of not having TRL on our linear network; there won't be a time when we don't have it on. The show has been killing it for us."

The afternoon TRL is broadcast live from a state-of-the-art studio that McCarthy had constructed in Times Square, behind the Viacom building where MTV's East Coast offices are housed. The executive hopes the space becomes a one-stop shop for concerts and other live events as he looks to elevate MTV's brand outside of the linear network.

TRL has been a big play for McCarthy, who has steered MTV away from scripted and focused more on its roots as a space for the hard-to-reach millennial viewers, the same demo who helped put the cable network on the map in the 1980s. To that end, McCarthy has revived Jersey Shore, Fear Factor and other unscripted series as it looks to use pricey original scripted fare as quarterly tentpole events after wrapping Teen Wolf last year.