Revival bid


Shawn MendesImage copyright
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Shawn Mendes will record his Unplugged set in Los Angeles

MTV is to bring back Unplugged as the station continues its efforts to return to its music channel roots.

The Unplugged series saw pop stars perform stripped-down acoustic versions of their songs in front of a live audience.

It was particularly popular in the 1990s but was wound down in 2009,

Now, MTV plans to bring it back from 8 September – with Shawn Mendes the first singer to appear in the reboot.

Previous artists to do Unplugged sets include Nirvana, Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, Adele, Mariah Carey and Katy Perry.

“At MTV, the brand equity is still so strong,” MTV’s Armani Duncan, told Variety. “It gives an opportunity to bring back nostalgia and also recruit an entirely new consumer who may not know what Unplugged was because they weren’t born.”

Mendes, who will record his set in Los Angeles, said he was drawn to the Unplugged brand after watching a clip from Pearl Jam’s 1992 show.

“It wasn’t so much about the commercial, showman side of it – it was really about the music,” he said.

The revival comes after MTV announced it would bring back TRL (Total Request Live).

TRL, a video countdown series that was hosted by Carson Daly in the early noughties, will return on 2 October – nearly a decade after the show’s original run ended.

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Image caption

Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged session was recorded in 1993

Analysis – Amol Rajan, BBC media editor

Viacom is having a hard time of it.

The American entertainment giant is under huge pressure on both ratings and advertising at its big brands, such as MTV and Comedy Central. The reason is simple. Viewers – and therefore advertisers – are flocking online, and away from conventional television.

The television industry has long been built on appointment-to-view – or, as it is better known, scheduling. This is the idea that at a specific time, on a specific day, on a specific channel, audiences will get a specific product, which is a TV show.

The internet and smartphone technology have waved goodbye to all that. A younger generation wants to watch what they want, where they want, when they want.

But this has an ironic consequence. Faced with these existential challenges, many television networks are responding by doubling down on the idea of scheduling.

Put simply, when you’re losing advertising revenue, and possibly viewers, one response is to try even harder – and spend even more – on trying to get whatever audiences might be out there for scheduled shows to tune in.

That’s partly why Channel 4 has spent big bucks on Bake Off.

And it’s partly why MTV is going back to the future with the return of Total Request Live and Unplugged. These old and indeed legendary formats launched many careers and created television gold. MTV – and Viacom – will be hoping they can revive some of the old magic and arrest decline.

It might lack imagination, and it might smack of desperation – but then again, it just might work.


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