MTV is an American TV channel, which is often considered the mother of all dedicated music channels. When the channel was launched, its name was an abbreviation for Music Television that has now changed. As the name claims, MTV began as a channel that played music under the guidance of various TV personalities known as video jockeys. Over the years, MTV has transformed itself to suit the changing tide of the new generations and their tastes. The channel has always focused on teenagers and young adults as its audience. As this particular demographic has evolved, so has the channel. Presently, it broadcasts a variety of shows based on reality, comedy, drama, and a bit of music too. It is broadcasted to over 90 million households in America, and is one of the most valuable brands under Viacom Inc. Its unprecedented success spawned numerous other channels, who have imitated MTV’s show ideas for years. Yet, MTV has managed to create a strong resonance among the teens and the youth.
Events Leading to MTV
In the sixties and seventies, music videos weren’t something that every band, or every singer pursued. Music was quite different then. The music videos were just picking up, and The Beatles were among the first to popularize the music videos. A number of attempts by various people in TV channels, including the CBS, pitched for a music video format show. But, all of them were shot down by the TV channels. However, QUBE, an interactive cable TV system was launched in 1977, which allowed viewers to vote for their favorite songs and artists. This step was a success, and the media executives became open for a music format show, and eventually to a dedicated musical channel.
Birth of a Legend
MTV was launched on August 1, 1981 with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll”. The TV channel showed the footage of a space shuttle countdown, and the launch of Apollo 11. This was soon followed by the original MTV theme song playing over the photos of the Apollo 11 moon-landing, with the flag featuring MTV designs and logo. The first music video shown by MTV was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. Soon, record sales of music were registered in all areas where MTV was available, even where this music was not even promoted by local radios. A legend was born.
Evolution of MTV
MTV launched with a new format of its own. Its “video jockeys” (VJs) discussed various news, interviews, concert dates, and promos about various music bands and their music videos. These segments were interspersed with broadcasts of respective music videos to make it appear as if the segments themselves were being aired live. The channel was started for promotion of rock music, and it promoted a huge number of performers and their music, who were hitherto unknown. The channel soon became a primary source of good music, since it managed to promote and bring forward little known, but great music bands. Many of these bands went on to become legends in their genres, which they owe in large part to MTV. Occasionally, MTV would allow musicians and comedians to guest star on MTV as guest VJs and play music of their choice too.
Although it appeared that MTV was helping all new music artists to showcase their talents, it did not feature videos of black artists yet. This continued until 1983, when Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean created waves across the music industry. MTV did its best to not provide MJ’s song any airtime, but once it had reached Billboard Hot 100 chart, the channel was forced to provide it the equal treatment as the other songs. The video of Billie Jean can be credited with breaking the color barrier at MTV. Soon, MJ’s hits became a regular feature on MTV. Further, emerging genre of rap and hip hop too managed to find place on the channel, as the doors of MTV were now open to all artists, irrespective of their color.
1984 saw the first MTV Video Music Awards show, with the memorable performance by Madonna of her “Like a Virgin”. The channel made new inroads into comedy, by broadcasting the British sitcom, “The Young Ones” in 1985. The same year MTV launched safe sex PSAs, which was a first for a TV channel. Come 1986, and “120 minute” was launched. This late night alternative music show was a mega-hit and went on to air for ten seasons. Later that year, the first ever “Spring Break” kicked off with live coverage from Daytona Beach, Florida. These were among the first signs that MTV was growing to become something more than simply a 24-hour music channel. In line with this strategy, it aired its first game show, “Remote Control”, in 1987, in which participants were challenged on their TV knowledge. Very soon, the next year a weekly rap music show “YO! MTV Raps” premiered on the channel which went on to become one of the most defining characteristic of MTV.
1989 witnessed a major happening at MTV – MTV unplugged. The acoustic performance show remains to date one of the most loved things about MTV, and has spawned hugely popular adaptations across the globe. MTV can also be credited as one of the major forces for bringing alternative music and reality television into the mainstream during the period of 1991-92. As MTV grew beyond music, it launched the MTV Movie Awards in 1992, premiered Beavis and Butt-Head, aired the legendary The Jon Stewart Show, and a host of other shows. As it continued to become inventive about its choice of content, the channel was criticized for featuring less music than before. It responded by including more music-themed programs.
Although MTV used to be primarily a music channel, it never shied away from discussing social or political issues. As far back as 1992, it launched Choose or Lose, which helped improve political awareness and got the youth more interested in politics. Similarly, MTV launched True Life, which was a documentary series that focused on the troubles and travails of young adults. Even as recently as 2010, the channel featured a youth town hall event, where President Obama answered the questions of about 200 young people. The channel’s groundbreaking shows, 16 and Pregnant, and Teen Mom, have received universal acclaim for educating the public on the sufferings of such teenagers, and contributing to reduction in teen pregnancy.
Today, MTV has become a platform for a variety of shows and formats. Although it continues to broadcast music, it is far less than what the channel offered before. Despite its current format, the channel takes pride in bringing the issues of the young generation to the fore. It has always done that, and with the help of various reality TV shows and continues to do that. You can view MTV with most satellite and cable television providers in the USA. You can click here to check Charter Cable TV availability in your area.
MTV has tasted success like no other TV channel has. Its meteoric rise is characterized by its growth in not only America, but also across the globe with MTV now having hundreds of channels in various countries.