|August 1, 1981|
|MTV2, Tr3s, MTV Hits, MTV Jams, mtvU, Palladia, VH1, VH1 Classic, VH1 Soul, CMT, CMT Pure Country, Comedy Central, Logo, Nickelodeon/Nick at Nite, Nick 2, TeenNick, Nick Jr., Nicktoons, Spike Network, TV Land|
MTV (originally an initialism of Music Television) is an American basic cable and satellite television channel owned by the MTV Networks Music & Logo Group, a unit of the Viacom Media Networks division of Viacom. The channel itself is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, and is a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. Launched on August 1, 1981, the original purpose of the channel was to play music videos guided by television personalities known as "video jockeys," or VJs. In its early years, MTV's main target demographic were young adults, but today, MTV's programming is primarily targeted at adolescents and teenagers in addition to young adults.
MTV has spawned numerous sister channels in the U.S. and affiliated channels internationally, some of which have gone independent. MTV's influence on its audience, including issues related to censorship and social activism, has been a subject of debate for years.
MTV's pre-history began in 1977, when Warner Cable (a division of Warner Communications from Warner Bros.), and an ancestor of Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment (WASEC) launched the first two-way interactive cable television system, QUBE, in Columbus, Ohio. The QUBE system offered many specialized channels. One of these specialized channels was Sight On Sound, a music channel that featured concert footage and music-oriented television programs; with the interactive QUBE service, viewers could vote for their favorite songs and artists.
The original programming format of MTV was created by media executive Robert W. Pittman, who later became president and chief executive officer (CEO) of MTV Networks. Pittman had test-driven the music format by producing and hosting a 15-minute show, Album Tracks, on New York City television station WNBC in the late 1970s.
Pittman's boss, WASEC Executive Vice President John Lack, had shepherded PopClips, a television series created by former Monkee-turned solo artist Michael Nesmith, whose attention had turned to the music video format by the late 1970s. The inspiration for PopClips came from a similar program on New Zealand's TVNZ network, Radio with Pictures, which premiered in 1976. The concept itself had been in the works since 1966, when major record companies began supplying the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation with promotional music clips to play on the air at no charge (few artists made the long trip to New Zealand to appear live).
Music Television Debut
On Saturday, August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time, MTV launched with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll," spoken by John Lack, and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia, which took place earlier that year, and of the launch of Apollo 11. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching rock tune composed by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over photos of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with the flag featuring MTV's logo changing various colors, textures, and designs. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a conceit. Seibert said they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong's "One small step" quote, but lawyers said Armstrong owns his name and likeness, and Armstrong had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound.
The first music video shown on MTV was The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star". This was followed by the video for Pat Benatar's "You Better Run". Sporadically, the screen would go black when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR. MTV's lower third graphics that appear near the beginning and end of music videos would eventually use the recognizable Kabel typeface for about 25 years, but these graphics differed on MTV's first day of broadcast; they were set in a different typeface and included record label information such as the year and label name.
As programming chief, Robert W. Pittman recruited and managed a team for the launch that included Tom Freston (who succeeded Pittman as CEO of MTV Networks), Fred Seibert, John Sykes, Carolyn Baker (original head of talent and acquisition), Marshall Cohen (original head of research), Gail Sparrow (of talent and acquisition), Sue Steinberg (executive producer), Julian Goldberg, Steve Lawrence, Geoff Bolton; studio producers and MTV News writers/associate producers Liz Nealon, Nancy LaPook and Robin Zorn; Steve Casey (creator of the name "MTV" and its first program director), Marcy Brahman, Ronald E. "Buzz" Brindle, and Robert Morton. Kenneth M. Miller is credited as being the first technical director to officially launch MTV from its New York City-based network operations facility.
MTV's effect was immediate in areas where the new music video channel was carried. Within a couple of months, record stores in areas where MTV was available were selling music that local radio stations were not playing, such as Men at Work, Bow Wow Wow and the Human League. MTV sparked the Second British Invasion, with British acts, who had been accustomed to using music videos for half a decade, featuring heavily on the channel.
Following Concepts (1981–1992)
HBO also had a 30-minute program of music videos, called Video Jukebox, that first aired around the time of MTV's launch and would last until late 1986. SuperStation WTBS launched Night Tracks on June 3, 1983, with up to 14 hours of music video airplay each late night weekend by 1985. Its most noticeable difference was that black artists received airplay that MTV initially ignored. The program ran until the end of May 1992.
Shortly after TBS began Night Tracks, NBC launched a music video program called Friday Night Videos, which was considered network television's answer to MTV. Later renamed simply Friday Night, the program ran from 1983 to 2002. ABC's contribution to the music video program genre in 1984, ABC Rocks, was far less successful, lasting only a year.
TBS founder Ted Turner started the Cable Music Channel in 1984, designed to play a broader mix of music videos than MTV's rock format allowed. But after one month as a money-losing venture, Turner sold it to MTV, who redeveloped the channel into VH1.
Shortly after its launch, The Disney Channel aired a program called D-TV, a play on the MTV acronym. The program used music cuts, both from current and past artists. Instead of music videos, the program used clips of various vintage Disney cartoons and animated films to go with the songs. The program aired in multiple formats, sometimes between shows, sometimes as its own program and other times as one-off specials. The specials tended to air both on The Disney Channel and NBC. The program aired at various times between 1984 and 1999. In 2009, Disney Channel revived the D-TV concept with a new series of short-form segments called Re-Micks.
Fewer Music Videos (2000–2008)
From 1995 to 2000, MTV played 36.5% fewer music videos. MTV president Van Toeffler explained: "Clearly, the novelty of just showing music videos has worn off. It's required us to reinvent ourselves to a contemporary audience." Despite targeted efforts to play certain types of music videos in limited rotation, MTV greatly reduced its overall rotation of music videos by the mid-2000s. While music videos were featured on MTV up to eight hours per day in 2000, the year 2008 saw an average of just three hours of music videos per day on MTV. The rise of the internet as a convenient outlet for the promotion and viewing of music videos signaled this reduction.
As the decade progressed, MTV continued to play some music videos instead of relegating them exclusively to its sister channels, but around this time, the channel began to air music videos only in the early morning hours or in a condensed form on Total Request Live. As a result of these programming changes, Justin Timberlake implored MTV to "play more damn videos!" while giving an acceptance speech at the 2007 Video Music Awards.
Despite the challenge from Timberlake, MTV continued to decrease its total rotation time for music videos in 2007, and the channel eliminated its long-running special tags for music videos such as "Buzzworthy" (for under-represented artists), "Breakthrough" (for visually stunning videos), and "Spankin' New" (for brand new videos). Additionally, the historic Kabel typeface, which MTV displayed at the beginning and end of all music videos since 1981, was phased out in favor of larger text and less information about the video's record label and director. The classic font can still be seen in "prechyroned" versions of old videos on sister network VH1 Classic, which had their title information recorded onto the same tape as the video itself.
Animated Programs (1991–2011)
In a continuing bid to become a more diverse network focusing on youth and culture as well as music, MTV added animated shows to its lineup in the early 1990s. The animation showcase Liquid Television (a co-production between BBC and MTV produced in San Francisco by Colossal Pictures) was one of the channel's first programs to focus on the medium. In addition to airing original shows created specifically for MTV, the channel also occasionally aired episodes of original cartoon series produced by sister channel Nickelodeon (Nicktoons) in the early 1990s.
MTV has a history of cartoons with mature themes including Beavis and Butt-Head, Æon Flux, Celebrity Deathmatch, Undergrads, Clone High and Daria. Although the channel has gone on to debut many other animated shows, few of MTV's other cartoon series have been renewed for additional seasons, regardless of their reception.
In September 2009, the channel aired Popzilla, which showcased and imitated celebrities in an animated form. MTV again reintroduced animated programming to its lineup with the return of Beavis and Butt-head in 2011 after 14 years off the air, alongside brand new animated programs such as Good Vibes (the latter of which was later cancelled).
- The Adventures of Chico and Guapo (2006)
- Æon Flux (1995)
- Beavis and Butt-Head (1993–1997; 2011)
- The Brothers Grunt (1994–1995)
- Cartoon Sushi (1997–1998)
- Celebrity Deathmatch (1998–2002, 2006)
- Clone High USA (2003)
- Daria (1997–2002)
- DJ & the Fro (2009)
- Friday: The Animated Series (2007)
- Fur TV (2008)
- Downtown (1999–2000)
- Good Vibes (2011)
- The Head (1994–1996)
- Jean-Claude LeThargic (1994–1995)
- Liquid Television (1991–1994)
- The Maxx (1995)
- Migraine Boy (1996–1997)
- Popzilla (2009)
- Spider-Man: The New Animated Series (2003)
- Spy Groove (2000)
- Station Zero (1999)
- Stevie and Zoya (early 1990s)
- Super Adventure Team (1998)
- 3 South (2002–2003)
- Undergrads (2001)
- Where My Dogs At? (2006)
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