MTV president Van Toffler talks strategy

Melding of music and movies includes 'Jackass 3D'

NEW YORK -- Music videos are still valuable content for MTV, even though viewers' evolving tastes have required an expansion into reality and other shows, Van Toffler, president of Viacom's MTV Networks Music and Logo Group, said here Thursday.

Asked about how good a business his firm's "Beatles: Rock Band" video game is, he said: "I believe it will sell forever, and it will be a good deal." The game has so far sold about a couple of million units, he said.

Toffler made his comments during a keynote interview at the Billboard Music & Money Symposium here Thursday.

Asked whether MTV is still a music network or a general youth channel, Toffler said: "It's really both." In the network's early days, "music videos were the soundtrack of pop culture," but then the audience demanded "more genre shows," and MTV moved into animation, reality TV and social campaigns.

MTV and its sibling networks still play more than 600 music video hours a week, but they increasingly play on platforms outside of the MTV TV network, he said.

Still, MTV integrates music in different ways via big events and by using music within shows, Toffler said.

Plus, MTV invests more than $100 million in music each year in the form of promotions and the like, he added.

"We reinvent ourselves every couple of years" on the TV and film screen, he later said. "That's what we do" to always speak to the young audience of the day.

Toffler was recently cited as saying the channel was pushing out members of Generation X. Asked jokingly by his Billboard interviewer why he hates that audience, Toffler quipped: "Because you're cynical."

On a serious note, he said the 12-29-year-old demographic is in focus for him and his colleagues. Those Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are "much more traditional," Toffler explained. For example, many of them watch "Jersey Shore" with their parents, he said. That's why Taylor Swift got such strong support when Kanye West interrupted her on stage at the Video Music Awards last year, he added.

Asked about his movie strategy, Toffler said it is also constantly evolving -- from "Election" to "Jackass" and beyond. "Music has always been integral to our movies," he said. "We always expose new music in our movies."

He added that the upcoming "Jackass 3D" will have music "all over it." He also quipped that the movie will be what "Avatar" director James Cameron envisioned.

Toffler also said Thursday that MTV plans to roll out a cross-platform initiative dubbed PUSH, or "Play Until Someone Hears." Its goal is to build careers for new artists. "We have to invest in future stars, especially online," he said.

On its U.K. Web site, MTV already has a section for PUSH, including information and music along with access to ringtones for up-and-comers. "If you're unsure who should be your new favorite band, MTV can help!" the site says. "Each month PUSH will be telling you about the hottest new acts in the world and, of course, explaining why they're so special."
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