MTV's Denmark West on super-serving the audience

"I don't think we or anybody will have a MySpace anytime soon. It's a unique phenomenon to a large degree.

"I don't think we or anybody will have a MySpace anytime soon. It's a unique phenomenon to a large degree. We will play a different game," said Denmark West, EVP of strategy and business development at MTV Networks, during an interview with CNET's Rafe Needleman at the Under the Radar show and tell today. West was explaining why MTV didn't end up with MySpace, YouTube or a similar Web 2.0 rapid evolver. He said that MTV bought iFilm to get into the social media game, which he explained is different from social networking, with profiles and aggregation.

That's not a great answer for missing the opportunity, but MTV's philosophy is more directed at bolstering its on air audience--what MTV executives call "super-serving" the audience.  MTV bought Neopets, for example, which bolsters MTV's Nickelodeon property, West said.  MTV acquired Game Trailer and xfire to get into the gamer space. Although MTV doesn't have game programming on air, it fits the MTV-watcher profile.

Regarding YouTube, West said that he didn't realize that YouTube would be so powerful, in the wake of MySpace."[YouTube] has an uncontrolled network, with little structure and relies on the community. It's also  becoming a de facto network DVR," West said. He also noted that there are a lot of unanswered questions about YouTube's ability to hold on to its audience and deal with regulatory issues. That may be true, and many critics point to a lack of a business model and the YouTube's escalating bandwidth cost, but the bigger fish wouldn't turn away from an acquisition if the price were right.


MTV's Denmark West and CNET's Rafe Needleman

West doesn't expect the traditional broadcast model to become extinct any time soon. "The death of broadcast might be slightly exaggerated," he said. "MTV's business model is about creating content and delivering it to distributors with multichannel services. In the new world there will be virtual MSOs," he added.

West worked at Microsoft for six years, and isn't starry-eyed about Web 2.0 and user generated content.  His last job in Redmond was manager of strategic planning and investment governance and acting Chief of Staff for the Windows Client Division. He consistently brought up the problem of rights management and copyright as gating factors for the new breed of social media services and as an inhibitor for MTV to more broadly offer up its content for remixing by users.