It's official: Fifth Harmony and MTV are BFFs.
The relationship between the rising pop group and veteran entertainment company started in mid-January of this year when Fifth Harmony was included on MTV's Artist to Watch list of 2014, alongside such up-and-comers as Echosmith, Jhene Aiko and Bastille.
Since then, Fifth Harmony has received priceless exposure stemming from MTV's Artist to Watch program, including a song premiere on MTV.com, a live performance on the VMAs pre-show and a cameo on MTV's romantic comedy Faking It, airing Tuesday (Oct. 28) at 10:30 p.m. ET.
The extensive coverage has given Fifth Harmony -- which recently ranked fifth on Billboard's 21 under 21 list -- a significant boost ahead of its debut album, Reflection, scheduled for release on Dec. 16 through Epic Records.
"MTV is our best friend and we love them," Fifth Harmony's Camila Cabello tells Billboard. "They've given us a huge platform that extends beyond our fanbase and what we had before the Artist to Watch program."
MTV has worked so closely with the pop quintet in 2014 that they "might as well have already become an honorary member of the MTV staff," jokes Amy Doyle, executive VP of music and talent programming strategy at MTV. "They're comfortable doing everything."
Forming a deep bond with developing artists is something Doyle hopes to accomplish more in the coming years with the Artist to Watch campaign, which launched in 2013 with the aim of introducing music fans to new acts.
"Our goal of Artist to Watch is to make that direct connection between artist and fan, and give them a more intimate connection than if they just heard them on the radio or watched a video," she tells Billboard. "The goal is to introduce an artist in a way that makes them more three-dimensional."
Artist to Watch (formerly Best New Artist) is also the name of a fan-voted category at the VMAs. Fifth Harmony walked away with the Moonman in the category this year, beating out Sam Smith, 5 Seconds of Summer, Charli XCX and Schoolboy Q.
In the year leading up to the VMAs, the Artist to Watch campaign spotlights 26 new acts across MTV's television, online and social media platforms. Every two weeks, the company showcases exclusive content from a burgeoning act, including live performances, interviews, video rotation and song placement in TV shows.
"We set up a three-hour shoot with each of the Artist to Watch artists, and in that time we're capturing live performance, as well as interview footage," says Doyle, who was featured in Billboard's 2013 Women in Music list. "What we do with this great content is create different pieces for different platforms, so there might be a 15-second video on Instagram or a full live performance on the [TV] channels and online."
Fifth Harmony has seen the positive results first-hand. The July premiere of its single "Bo$$" on MTV.com resulted in more than 669,000 streams -- one of the biggest stream premieres in MTV's history. The following month, the group performed "Bo$$" at the VMAs pre-show, which helped increase sales of the track by 16 percent from the previous week, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The act's Twitter following also grew by 112 percent following the VMA performance, MTV says.
"At the airport, people who aren't necessarily huge fans of us will come up and say, 'Oh, wait a second, aren't you from that girl group that performed at the VMAs?'" Cabello says. "There were a lot of people watching that, and we got a lot of feedback from it."
Fifth Harmony will also benefit from their appearance on Faking It, which has been averaging 1.2 million viewers this season, according to Nielsen. During the episode, the quintet will guest star as an all-girl group that covers boy band songs, performing a remixed version of New Kids on the Block's 1989 hit "You Got It (The Right Stuff)."
Cabello says the group had to learn the dance routine from the original NKOTB video just 30 minutes before taping. "We had done our own dance before, but then thought we should probably do the classic dance moves," she says, noting that Fifth Harmony and NKOTB are both managed by Janelle Lopez. "It looks really easy, but it's actually quite hard."
MTV is also planning a "big live stunt" for the Dec. 16 release date of Reflection, Doyle says. "We're still developing the creative and details around that, but we're looking to do something really big, really loud and definitely live."
So far, Fifth Harmony hasn't gotten tired of working with MTV on new projects. "Every time something comes up with MTV, I scream inside," Cabello says. "It doesn't really feel like an obligation when you see your face on one of the most-watched music television channels in the world."
The feeling is mutual with MTV. "What makes them such a perfect Artist to Watch for us is that they are very social and interactive with their fans," Doyle says. "Because of that, the multitude of things we can do with them is really limitless and it's why we've been able to extend the campaign from January through the end of the year."
Expect to see MTV's 2015 Artist to Watch list arriving sometime in December.
"Right now we're in the process of seeing a lot of music, hearing a lot of music," Doyle says. "We have various managers, labels and even artists pitching themselves. We're in the process of hearing and seeing as much new music as possible so that by December we're ready to roll out at least what we're hoping will be half of the artists for 2015."