Upstart Gets in MTV's Face
Even Mel Karmazin is getting an unwelcome eyeful of a cheeky ad campaign trashing his MTV cash cow.
A giant Times Square billboard outside Karmazin's office is expected to greet the Viacom president when he shows up today. And telephone kiosks just outside his headquarters entrance will also carry the anti-MTV messages.
An upstart rival music channel, Fuse, says it ordered the outdoor ads installed overnight to tweak what it called MTV's "lack of music" in its programming.
MTV's second-floor studios look directly across Broadway onto the billboard - which, ironically, Viacom also owns, through its outdoor advertising arm.
Viacom owns the telephone kiosks as well, so at least Karmazin is making a buck off the assault.
Except for the coffee cups.
Fuse yesterday distributed about 2 million free cups bearing another punning anti-MTV slogan: "Where's the M in emptee-vee?"
Sources at Fuse said MTV COO Mark Rosenthal telephoned Josh Sapan - CEO of Fuse's parent, Rainbow Media Holdings Inc. - to complain that the cups were a "personal affront."
Sapan invited Rosenthal for coffee but he declined, insiders said.
Viacom didn't return calls.
Fuse, owned by Canadian investors, has been operating as a digital TV channel under the name muchmusic usa but it is relaunching itself Monday as Fuse.
Actress Sally Struthers, known for her animal activism and save-the-children campaigns, is the spokesperson pictured in the billboard ad, which purports to "save the music video."