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MTV launches Net startup

Viacom launches MTVi, formerly code-named the "Buggles Project".
Written by Maria Seminerio, Contributor

Viacom's MTV Networks Online unit said Monday it has launched a new company to encompass all of its online music brands.

The MTV Interactive (MTVi) startup will run the online hubs of MTV, VH1 and SonicNet.com, said Nicholas Butterworth, former president of SonicNet and now president and CEO of MTVi. "We're hitting the ground today with the largest network of music sites on the Web," Butterworth said in an interview. The company was formed to focus on tighter integration between the sites and Viacom's major cable television music properties, MTV and VH1, he said.

This will include projects like "Web Riot", a music trivia game show debuting 29 November simultaneously on the MTV Web site and on cable. Some 50,000 Internet users will be able to play along with the show on their computers, competing with each other and with guests on the show. "We want deeper relationships with the viewers, and this is one way we can establish that," Butterworth said.

Bolstering the Web and TV properties is a major promotional commitment from the MTV corporate parent, Viacom, he said. Viacom has committed to $300m (£186m) worth of online promotion for the properties over five years. The Web sites offer the largest online database of music information along with a free video jukebox and online radio, according to Butterworth.

The sites will continue to be mainly advertising-supported, he said, although plans are in the works to earn revenue from concert ticket sales and other e-commerce projects. The advertising is targeted mainly to viewers and site visitors aged 12 to 39, who generally believed to be the segment with the most disposable income, Butterworth said.

The company will be headquartered in New York City and has about 200 employees. Butterworth will report to Fred Seibert, president of MTV Networks Online.

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