MTV launches its first international HD channel

MTV has often been accused by the music community of distancing itself from the pop hits that created its billion dollar business. However, the launch, last month, of its international high definition music channel should go some way to silencing critics with its sharper picture and ear blasting 5.1 surround sound.

MTVNHD was launched in September in Poland and also reaches Scandinavia and Latin America. It will air a raft of music videos, concerts, studio chart shows and will include a kids block that will have series from the Nickelodeon library such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Jimmy Neutron.

Izabella Wiley, general manager and VP, MTV Networks Poland, who is charge of the channel, says that it wants to return to its music programming roots. It will film and air live concerts from international stars such as The Hives, Meatloaf and Eric Clapton and have strands such as MTV Unplugged and VH1 Storytellers, which are already shot in high definition for the company’s US HD channel Palladia. It will also launch a range of original studio-based productions.

The channel is run from MTV’s Polish office and will have three main programming hubs; Poland, Italy and Latin America. As a result it will launch ‘local’ productions from each of these regions including MTV Uncompressed, a factual series from Poland, MTV Top 20, a studio chart show produced in Argentina and HD Extreme, an extreme sports show from Italy.

"We want to have flavours from all over the world," says Wiley. "We definitely want to do as many concerts as possible and we’re also looking at more original production, there will be more creative ideas coming from all of the hubs." Wiley says that by the end of next year there will be 300 hours of native HD content, which she claims far exceeds the amount offered by MTV’s high def counterparts including Discovery and National Geographic. "We have three times as much content as other HD channels that are available in the market," she says.

While, much of this content will be produced by MTV’s internal production units, the programming team hopes to commission shows from a number of international independent producers. "At MTV, we work with external talent and production companies should definitely pitch ideas," she says.

Volume deals with music distributors Eagle Rock and 3DD for concert series have already been struck.
MTV is likely to expand the number of international HD channels quite quickly, mirroring the strategy of many of the international factual networks. But for the time being, MTVNHD will be squarely music focused, eschewing series such as The Hills for music videos. "I’m not sure we will have entertainment shows at some point. At this moment, we believe music is something the viewers want," says Wiley.

Miki Chojnacka-Mascianica, VP, content, music brands, emerging markets, says that the channel will have an initial line up of 600 high definition music videos, many of which have been upconverted. "MTV plays more music than ever now, the people say that MTV doesn’t play music are only thinking about the main channel but there are lots of MTV channels that are playing lots of music," she adds.

Much of the kids content will also be upconverted, as many of the hit Nickelodeon shows such as SpongeBob Squarepants are shot in standard definition. However, this is set to change from 2009 when Nick will produce all of its series in HD. "At this point, the animation is upconverted. It’s not currently shot in HD, but that switch is going to happen next year," says Wiley.