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Is MTV working on a branded social network?

Rumors are floating that the Viacom-owned brand has a standalone social networking property in the works. But it's murky. Really murky.

Vintage MTV.

Do we really need another social networking site? Apparently so, and we're not talking about start-ups here.

What we're hearing--and this is industry cocktail-party gossip, albeit a very believable variety thereof--is that MTV Networks is working on its own social network and we'll be hearing more about it pretty soon. We don't have a name, or a target demographic (Teens? College kids? Young adults?) or any semblance of screenshots. This is so hush-hush, in fact, that we aren't even sure whether it's an MTV Networks (as in MTV, VH1, MTV2, Spike TV and the like) or strictly MTV (as in the channel) property. But what surprises us somewhat is that the evidence really does seem to point to the Viacom-owned MTV Networks building something from the ground up in a market that's already pretty saturated (to say the least).

You may recall that earlier this year, MTV Networks invested in social networking start-up Tagworld, which briefly was talked about as one of those elusive "MySpace killers" but has since fallen off the radar. When the rumor initially surfaced, PaidContent reported that MTV wanted its foot in the door so that it had access to Tagworld's technology--and indeed, social networking features are appearing on some smaller MTV properties like the Subterranean blog. It's not clear yet whether Tagworld technology will be incorporated into this shadowy new social network in any way; maybe not, considering the two-million-member Tagworld hasn't taken off the way some predicted it would. (It hasn't yet made a mark on the top social networks list that Nielsen/NetRatings indexes.)

As News Corp.'s MySpace, the social network that made "social network" a household phrase, launches more original video content--like the upcoming Quarterlife, which looks like an updated version of the '90s Gen-X angst flick Reality Bites--and throws concert tours, it's tempting to call it "the new MTV." Indeed, as Facebook stakes a stronger claim to the "social graph," MySpace has been shaping itself as more of a media and trend hub. If MySpace were still independent, it would seem more logical for a brand like MTV to get its foot in the door there through high-profile partnerships (like the upcoming presidential dialogues), but the News Corp. ownership (MTV Networks is a Viacom property) probably complicates things a good bit.

We can't say for sure what MTV--or MTV Networks--has in the works for this social networking endeavor, but they're hoping to keep it well under wraps for the time being. MTV is still struggling with its new-media credentials--recent tech-related headlines from the company have included a music-related partnership with Yahoo, a Twitter tie-in to the Video Music Awards and the aforementioned presidential dialogues. It'll be interesting to see how this turns out.