Daria. Aeon Flux. Made. The Real World. If you grew up in the late ‘90s and early aughts, amid ‘zza-scented food courts and blinging arcades — and, crucially, you had cable or at least one friend with cable — you’re probably familiar with these seminal shows from MTV’s heyday. Now they’re all coming back: the network is launching MTV Studios, a new production arm that will focus on monetizing its vast library of intellectual property by selling beloved reboots to other networks.
“MTV has the biggest collection of hit youth franchises that spans more than three decades of content and over 200 titles, part of which have fueled our resurgence,” Chris McCarthy, MTV’s president, told Variety on Thursday. “With MTV Studios, we are for the first time ever opening up this vault beyond our own platforms to reimagine the franchises with new partners.”
The move comes after years of declining ratings. Last year, Reuters reported that after six straight years, the network posted its first year-over-year growth over a three-month period in 2017. The company attributed those gains mostly to investment in original programming. Per Variety:
The launch of the studio and the new development commitments mark a continued original-programming investment for MTV. The cable channel has seen significant growth under McCarthy the Viacom exec who added MTV to a portfolio that already included VH1 and Logo. From the beginning of the year through May 27, MTV’s average total primetime viewership in its target 18-34 demo is up 21% from the same period a year earlier.
In addition to Aeon Flux, a live-action remake of the anime from Teen Wolf showrunner Jeff Davis that was announced last week, the first slate of MTV Studios’ new(ish) developments include Daria & Jodie, a reinvention of the classic cynically feminist cartoon; a social media-era reboot of The Real World; the hit makeover series Made; The Valley, a new loosely scripted reality show in the vein of The Hills; and MTV’S Straight Up Ghosted, which promises to “satisfy the ultimate question — why did you leave me?”
Viacom is betting these new properties can engineer a return to that ‘90s mall-rat golden age. It’s a significant gamble. As a brand, MTV represents about 15 percent of its parent company’s total media network revenue. The question MTV Studios was formed to answer is an existential one for the entire industry: can networks hope to win back younger audiences who are fleeing cable in droves for YouTube, Twitch, and Instagram? If Straight Up Ghosted can answer why young people end relationships by blocking each other, it just might be able to answer Viacom’s question, too.