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As cable's unequivocal leader, MTVN is quickly gaining on broadcast in most of the key demographics.

STARS UPFRONT AND CENTER AT MTV NETWORKS PITCH SESSION

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In typical monolith form, Viacom pulled out all the stops for MTV Networks' first-ever joint upfront presentation to advertisers. Held last night (5/6) at New York's Madison Square Garden Theater, the event previewed upcoming programming on MTV, MTV2, VH1, CMT, TV Land, Nickelodeon and Spike TV channels and emphasized that MTVN is about three things: branding, loyalty and (for the first time) ratings.

Really good ratings, judging by the party's star power. Among the celebs recruited to tout and endorse the network and its recent achievements were MTV regulars Kelly and Ozzy Osbourne, P. Diddy and Ashton Kutcher; TV greats Larry Hagman, Kirstie Alley, Felicia Rashad (The Cosby Show), Dawn Wells (Mary-Anne on Gilligan's Island), Farah Fawcett and Sherman Hemsley; and pop-culture staples Stan Lee, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Pamela Anderson.

And there were performances, too. The night kicked off with a solo Elton John, who belted three perennial favorites—"Tiny Dancer," I Guess That's Why They Call It the Blues" and "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me." Later on, the crowd was treated to a hilarious cover of "Start Me Up" by The Folksmen (from A Mighty Wind) and a  pyro-powered set by Kid Rock, who started with his own "Cowboy" before launching into a medley of "songs born and bred in Detroit" including Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock & Roll," Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever," and The Supremes' "Where Did Our Love Go." Rock ended with the now-classic "Bawitdaba," during which he interjected a few lines from his most recent hit, "Picture."

But the big picture, of course, was focused on highlighting MTVN's overall strength in the advertising arena. As cable's unequivocal leader, MTVN is quickly gaining on broadcast in most of the key demographics. 2002 marked MTV's 11th year as the number-one network among 12- to 34-year-olds, with shows like The Osbournes and Punk'd giving viewership a healthy boost. The company's other music channels, VH1, MTV2 and CMT, also saw stellar gains—VH1's audience was up 38 percent last year, and its I Love the '80s special was watched by a record-setting 40 million people, CMT's second annual Flameworthy Awards (Nashville's answer to the VMAs) was the Country network's highest-rated show ever, and MTV2 ("The Deuce," as MTV insiders call it) is now available in 50 million homes.

Children's programming continued to be a ratings winner as well, with Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. commanding a consistent lead among both kids and moms. Further enhancing its reach, the network unveiled two more channels: the newly named Spike TV (formerly TNN, seen in 89 million homes), which is billed as "the first network for men," and The College Television Network (CTN), which will soon be available on more than 730 campuses. Spike President Albie Hecht introduced his network's newest stars and their respective shows: Stan Lee, whose animated series Striperella features the voice and body of Pamela Anderson, and John Leguizamo, creator of Zilch & Zero, who'll also premiere his adult animated special on the channel.

Elaborate video presentations and charts aside, the evening's real stars were the network executives. Case in point: Ozzy Osbourne introduced MTV's President as "my second wife, Mr. Van 'fucking' Toffler." (Toffler shot back that The Osbournes was the reason for his bleeding ulcer.) Jewel introduced herself as "a friend of VH1 for some time" before she brought out VH1 GM Christina Norman, and P. Diddy preceded Judy McGrath, who joked, "I'll see you at the after, after, after-party, if I'm on the list this time." MTV honchos name-checked acts like The White Stripes, John Mayer, The Hives and Norah Jones as examples of the channel's effectiveness in breaking new artists, and reiterated last year's buzz phrase, "MTV 360," now an essential philosophy covering all MTV programming.

Taking a cue from CBS cohort David Letterman, the two-hour affair closed with an all-star reading of the "Top 10 Reasons to Buy Time on MTV Networks." Some highlights:

Mel Karmazin (#10): "Because I'm staying, damnit!"

Felicia Rashad (#8): "Just like Dr. Huxtable, MTVN delivers."

Ashton Kutcher (#4): "Who else would have the balls to let me totally screw with their talent?"

Kelly & Ozzy (#3): "There's only one fucking reason, the fucking Osbournes!"

Farah Fawcett (#2): "Because we give you major tent poles."

Kid Rock (#1): "Because all of you are on the list for the after-party."

Yee-haw!

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