The Australian Recording Industry Association and MTV Networks Australia have strengthened their alliance through a number of joint initiatives, unveiled today.

The first is a new one-hour magazine-style show that bows tomorrow on MTV and will focus on the weekly Motorola ARIA charts. The show will be repeated on weekend mornings.

David Sibley, Sydney-based managing director of MTVNA, tells Billboard.biz, "It'll give us greater access to ARIA artists. There'll be a lot more one-off interviews with high profile Australian names."

MTVNA has three channels: MTV Australia is "edgier" with a core 16-24 age group, VH1 Australia has been refocused for the 30-plus demographic, and TMF Australia is aimed at the pop end of the 12-20 age group.

VH1 has broadcast the ARIA Hall of Fame ceremony, held mid-year, since it was introduced as a stand-alone event in 2005.

Last September, it was announced MTVNA would take over after four years from Channel [V] as the pay-TV broadcaster of the ARIA awards, to be held in October or November this year. MTV will pre-promote nominees and screen the red carpet proceedings. Free-to-air Ten Network will continue to broadcast the awards live.

MTV will also build up promotions, news stories and specials around the March 6 ARIA Number One chart awards.

Specific pay-TV ratings figures are not revealed. But label sources suggest that while MTV is only available in 60% to 70% of the households that [V] is in, it has a greater viewing audience due to its running four mobile TV channels on all operators -- Vodafone, Telstra, Optus and 3.

In any case, says ARIA's Sydney-based chief executive Stephen Peach, viewing figures is not the sole concern. He tells Billboard.biz, "In the past few years, ARIA has put a lot of effort in increasing profile of music, particularly Australian music, with events as our awards, the chart countdown radio show (on DMG Radio's Nova network) and the Hall of Fame. MTV Networks Australia has also built up a strong focus on domestic music, and (its executives) are creative and enthusiastic about building content around ARIA properties. They have made ARIA a priority."

MTVNA's involvement in the ARIAs has also seen it radically change the format of its own MTV Awards, held April 26 in Sydney. Sibley today also announced that this year's categories will expand to include film/TV and sporting stars. MTV's non-music content makes up 50% of programming.

A new award, MTV Remake, allows viewers to upload and submit videos re-enacting the year's pop culture moments. The awards will also drop traditional auditorium seating for "an innovative and fast-paced mix of performance, design and staging" before 5,000 fans at the new site of the Australian Technology Park.

Production costs will remain the same as last year's awards, Sibley says, declining to reveal specific costs or total viewing figures. Last year, 2.2 million votes were cast on MTV online for the awards. The 2008 awards' four major sponsors will be revealed on March 12, alongside the list of artist nominations.

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