July 28, 2006

Music TV battles to survive in Internet age

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - Music television is the endangered
species of the pop world, and is learning the hard way that it
must adapt to the Internet age, or die.

Britain's "Top of the Pops," the world's longest running
weekly music show, will be declared extinct on Sunday when it
is broadcast for the last time on BBC.

Two days later MTV, one reason for the demise of Top of the
Pops and at the cutting edge of music for so long, begins to
reinvent itself with a new interactive TV channel and Web site
that will target the online social networking craze.

Young, Internet-literate listeners are not prepared to wait
for a weekly digest of chart acts, and the pre-selected
programming of 24-hour music channels is also losing its appeal
in an age where music choice is greater than ever.

Television must compete with Robbie Williams beaming live
images from a concert to fans' mobile phones and iPods playing
downloaded tracks.

"I'm afraid to say that Top of the Pops won't get that
audience any more," said Dylan White, director of Anglo
Plugging which promotes bands to TV producers, referring to
people aged between 16 and 30.

"They are eagerly downloading and getting their information
far quicker and with a more focused style than sitting there
waiting for a program to come around once a week on TV," he
told Reuters.

White believes that the 42-year-old Top of the Pops can be
saved for pre- and early teenagers, but its makers have made
clear they do not share his confidence.

In Britain, people spend longer on the Internet than
watching television, according to a Google survey, and the
audience for Top of the Pops has fallen to around one million
viewers compared with a peak of more than 15 million.


Meanwhile, MTV marks its 25th anniversary on August 1 with
the launch of community-style Web site www.mtvflux.co.uk
followed by a new channel called Flux both of which aim to
challenge leading social networking sites like MySpace and

"If audiences are spending more time away from the TV it is
important for us to make sure we have a really compelling
product," said Angel Gambino, vice president of commercial
strategy and digital media at MTV Networks UK & Ireland.

"It's critical to our success to make that transition from
a broadcasting company to a multi-platform media company," she
told Reuters.

Viewers of the new channel will be able to control what is
aired on the station and chat with each other live.

There are doubts over whether interactive television is the
best way forward for MTV, and some question why it has taken
the channel so long to take on the big music Web sites.

But Gambino is confident MTV has created a distinctive
product that incorporates the best of the competition and
harnesses the channel's powerful position in the pop world.

"I think it is a creative and business challenge for us to
increasingly be distinctive in a very crowded market place."

Greg Walsh, head of the online music portal www.arkade.com,
says traditional leaders in music, like the record labels and
MTV, will struggle to keep up with changes in the industry that
have given fans seemingly limitless choices.

"I think they will find it very difficult," he said. "Music
is being driven by the public now and no longer by the
industry. We see sites like MySpace becoming the home of
breaking new music and suddenly Bebo launches its own service."