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So What Happened With TMZ’s Apparently Erroneous Story About TRL Being Canceled?

Here’s something odd that happened yesterday. TMZ reported late in the afternoon that MTV was canceling the rebooted version of TRL, citing an internal memo that allegedly said the show was going to “pivot to short term content.” It seemed entirely plausible—the new TRL is frankly not good television, hasn’t seemed to penetrate the daily conversation in any way, and already had its runtime shortened from an hour to a half-hour. The story was quickly picked up by some music sites, including us. But when MTV responded to the report, not only did they deny that TRL was being canceled, they said that the network was doubling down on the franchise by extending the run of a recently debuted “late night” version of the show while also developing a morning offshoot as well. Said MTV president Chris McCarthy in a jargon-y statement to the Hollywood Reporter:

“It’s thriving. We’re expanding the franchise and will have three TRLs by summer,” McCarthy tells THR. (The revival’s October premiere drew just 166,000 live same-day viewers.) “TRL has delivered incredible growth on linear, and we’ve experienced two to three times the growth in our video streams, and TRL is a big piece of it — and that’s why we’re expanding it; we want more.”

It’s not uncommon for a place like a television network to push back on a story such as this one, which would have preempted any sort of public announcement of a cancelation. But the gulf we have here is unusually large: TMZ reported TRL was being canceled, and MTV responded with, “Actually, not only is the show not being canceled, but we love it so much it’s becoming three shows.” What gives?

TMZ, despite its mostly well-earned bottom-feeding reputation, has a long and solid history of correct and factual reporting. (No, they did not report that Lil Wayne had died.) If TMZ had relied on an anonymous source for the TRL story, it would perhaps be easy enough to understand how something could have gotten lost in translation. But instead the site cited an internal memo it presented in no uncertain terms as saying that TRL was being canceled. TMZ, as is its custom, did not print the entire contents of the document it had obtained, so perhaps there was some context hidden from us that further explained the “pivot.” It’s also possible that whatever memo MTV sent was poorly worded and thus misinterpreted by its employees and subsequently by TMZ.

But even those explanations do not account for the distance between these two stories. Either TMZ screwed up about as bad as it ever has, or there is something fishy about MTV’s insistence that TRL is a huge success that simply must have its presence increased. Representatives for both TMZ and MTV did not respond to requests for comment—if you have any idea what happened here, you can get in touch at [email protected].