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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Seeking new ways to entertain audiences, music television network MTV has recently begun allowing fans of new and upcoming shows to discuss and post their own versions of music videos on the Web.
This month the network launched "FNMTV," which airs new videos every Friday night and invites viewers to go online to comment on them and upload their reinterpretations at MTV.com.
MTV has used a similar strategy in limited ways on past programs such as "America's Best Dance Crew" and "The Real World: Hollywood." But "FNMTV" is the first show to employ user-generated video as part of its format, and MTV plans to broaden the strategy to other programs as well.
The network plans to pair viewer-generated content with upcoming programs such as "G's to Gents," "America's Best Dance Crew Season 2," and "Paris Hilton's My New BFF."
"There was a time when the music video itself is what happened in culture, but now it's the music video and what everyone has to say about it that is what's happening," said Brian Graden, president of MTV programming.
When it launched in 1981, MTV revolutionized the music industry. Artists were suddenly expected not only to record albums and perform, but also dance and sing on video.
Over the years MTV, a unit of media conglomerate Viacom Inc, evolved away from showing only videos and put greater emphasis on reality TV, game shows and other programming.
As Web use has grown, young people have been watching more amateur video on Google Inc's YouTube and News Corp's MySpace, and MTV found itself having to compete.
According to Web tracker comScore, the U.S. online audience for MySpace totaled 73.7 million visitors, while 66.2 million visited YouTube and 17.1 million viewed MTV Web sites.
Early on, the network said its strategy of letting fans produce their own video was enjoying some success.
The Web site accompanying "America's Best Dance Crew," for instance, allowed viewers to post their own dance videos and rate them. Those with the most views aired on MTV, and the show became so popular, MTV is returning it for a second season.
Graden said MTV would, like other TV networks, continue reinventing itself, but noted its younger audience was particularly predisposed to technological innovations.
"MTV is not above serving many fads, but in this case it's a generational and fundamental shift to technology," he said.
Charlene Li, analyst with Forrester Research, gave MTV points for pushing new digital strategies on TV and the Web.
"They have like 30 experiments, and I give them credit for trying," she said. "Everyone is trying to figure out how to tap into user-generated content and still preserve a coherent experience for their audience."
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Braden Reddall