Less than a million people watched the fifth episode of MTV’s controversial teen drama “Skins” last Monday night, a major drop from the 3.2-plus million who watched the premiere on January 19.
Now, halfway through the first season of its run, MTV is staying true to its promise to air all 10 episodes of “Skins,” despite a parent’s group’s request for a federal investigation into whether it constitutes child pornography.
The show suffers from declining viewership a continued lack of sponsorship.
“At this point, the only advertising that you see on the show, aside from Clearasil, are movie trailers and various direct marketing type of things,” Dan Isett, director of public policy for the Parents Television Council, said. “So, there’s virtually no mainline commercial support for this show. There’s no economic reason to keep ‘Skins’ on the air. If I were a Viacom (owner of MTV) shareholder, I’d be upset that my corporate management is going out of their way to lose me money by putting on this show.”
The Parents Television Council is the watchdog group that called for the show to be investigated for possibly being child pornography.
However, a marketing experts says “Skins” could be valuable to Viacom if it helps keep the MTV brand “edgy,” despite its weak ratings.
“The show has been losing its traction pretty quickly, but from everything I know about Viacom, they look at their programs not only for audience size, but also as a promotion for MTV,” marketing expert Adam Armbruster explained. “They look at it in terms as a kind of ‘halo’ effect – the show may not get great numbers, but it brings more attention to the network itself, supporting the brand. MTV sees itself as being dangerous, edgy, anti-authority and ‘Skins’ is right in MTV’s sweet spot for what the brand is all about.”
MTV definitely seems to thrive on the press controversy surrounding “Skins.”
“I think it’s always good when people are talking about you and people are certainly talking about (‘Skins’),” MTV programming chief David Janollari told the Hollywood Reporter last week.
Aside from the outrage over the racy content of “Skins,” the show itself hasn’t received much interest from viewers or buzz on the Internet.
“Quite frankly—no one I know watches ‘Skins’,” TV critic and editor of bsideblog.com, Ben Mandelker, said. “Absolutely no one is talking about ‘Skins’ on the Internet. Maybe in some forum, somewhere, but it’s not being talked about on Vulture, Gawker – I’m not seeing links on Facebook, I’m not seeing things on Twitter. I forget the show is even on. I don’t even know when it’s on, to be honest.”
Mandelker said one reason is the young actors on the show—some as young as fifteen—make some adults uncomfortable. “If you’ve seen pictures of this cast, they look sickly,” he said. “Not only do they look sickly, they actually look their age and they’re all shirtless. There’s sort of an ‘ick’ quality to it. And ‘Skins’ seems to take itself very, very seriously. Ever since they first started showing ads for it last year, it just didn’t make sense. You just saw all of these wasted, malnourished kids…, and it just wasn’t appealing. It totally misses the mark, whether it’s because it gives you that ‘icky’ feeling or because it doesn’t look like a fun show.”