MTV (which stands for "Music Television") is an American cable and satellite television channel owned by Viacom Media Networks (a division of Viacom) and headquartered in New York City.
The network was launched on August 1, 1981 and originally aired music videos as guided by television personalities known as "video jockeys" (or VJs). During its early years, MTV's main target demographic was young adults, but today it is primarily towards teenagers (particularly high school and college students).
MTV has toned down its music video programming significantly in recent years, and its programming now consists mainly of original reality, comedy and drama programming and some off-network syndicated programs and films, with limited music video programming in off-peak time periods. It has also become involved in promoting left-wing political issues and progressive social causes.
The network received criticism towards this change of focus, both by certain segments of its audience and musicians. MTV's influence on its audience (including issues involving censorship and social activism) has also been a subject of debate for several years.
In recent years, MTV had struggled with the secular decline of music-related cable media. Its ratings had been said to be failing systematically as younger viewers increasingly shift towards digital media, with yearly ratings drops as high as 29%; thus there was doubt of the lasting relevance of MTV towards young audiences.
In April of 2016, MTV announced it would start to return to its original music roots with the reintroduction of the classic MTV series MTV Unplugged. After nine years off air, TRL returned on October 2, 2017.
MTV has spawned numerous sister channels in the US and affiliated channels internationally, some of which have gone independent, with approximately 90.6 million American households in the United States receiving MTV (as of January 2016).
The History of MTVEdit
The Launch of MTVEdit
Other MTV ProgramsEdit
Logo and brandingEdit
MTV's now-iconic logo was designed in 1981 by Manhattan Design (a collective formed by Frank Olinsky, Pat Gorman and Patty Rogoff) under the guidance of original creative director Fred Seibert. The block letter "M" was sketched by Rogoff, with the scribbled word "TV" spray painted by Olinksky.
The primary variant of MTV's logo at the time had the "M" in yellow and the "TV" in red. But unlike most television networks' logos at the time, the logo was constantly branded with different colors, patterns and images on a variety of station IDs.
The only constant aspects of MTV's logo at the time were its general shape and proportions, with everything else being dynamic.
MTV launched on August 1, 1981, with an extended network ID featuring the first landing on the moon (with still images acquired directly from NASA), which was a concept of Seibert's executed by Buzz Potamkin and Perpetual Motion Pictures.
The ID then cut to the American flag planted on the moon's surface changed to show the MTV logo on it, which rapidly changed into different colors and patterns several times per second as the network's original guitar-driven jingle was played for the first time.
After MTV's launch, the "moon landing" ID was edited to show only its ending, and was shown at the top of every hour until early 1986, when the ID was scrapped in light of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. The ID ran "more than 15,000 times each year" according to Seibert.
The channel's iconic "I want my MTV!" advertising campaign was launched in 1982. It was developed by George Lois and was based on a cereal commercial from the 1950s with the slogan "I want my Maypo!" that George created.
The campaign featured popular artists and celebrities, including Pete Townshend, Pat Benatar, Adam Ant, David Bowie, The Police, Kiss, Culture Club, Billy Idol, Hall & Oates, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Ric Ocasek, John Mellencamp, Peter Wolf, Joe Elliot, Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield and Mick Jagger, interacting with the MTV logo on-air and encouraging viewers to call their cable or satellite providers and request that MTV be added to their local channel lineups.
Eventually, the slogan became so ubiquitous that it made an appearance as a lyric sung by Sting on the Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing", whose music video aired in regular rotation on MTV when it was first released in 1985.
From the late 1990s to the early 2000s, MTV updated its on-air appearance at the beginning of every year and each summer, creating a consistent brand across all of its music-related shows.
This style of channel-wide branding came to an end as MTV drastically reduced its number of music-related shows in the early to mid 2000s. Around this time, MTV introduced a static and single color digital on-screen graphic to be shown during all of its programming.
Starting with the premiere of the short-lived program FNMTV in 2008, MTV started using a revised and chopped down version of its original logo during most of its on-air programming. It became MTV's official logo on February 8, 2010 and officially debuted on its website.
The channel's full name "Music Television" was officially dropped with the revised logo largely the same as the original logo, but without the initialism, the bottom of the "M" being cropped and the "V" in "TV" being branched off.
This change was most likely made to reflect MTV's more prominent focus on reality and comedy programming and less on music-related programming.
However, much like the original logo, the new logo was designed to be filled in with a seemingly unlimited variety of images. It is used worldwide, but not everywhere existentially. The new logo was first used on MTV Films logo with the 2010 film Jackass 3D. MTV's rebranding was overseen by Popkern.
On June 25, 2015, MTV International rebranded its on-air look with a new vaporwave and seapunk-inspired graphics package. It included a series of new station IDs featuring 3D renderings of objects and people, much akin to vaporwave and seapunk "aesthetics."
Many have derided MTV's choice of rebranding, insisting that the artistic style was centered on denouncing corporate capitalism (many aesthetic pieces heavily incorporate corporate logos of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, which coincidentally include MTV's original logo) rather than being embraced by major corporations like MTV.
Many have also suggested that MTV made an attempt to be relevant in the modern entertainment world with the rebrand. In addition to this, the rebrand was made on exactly the same day that the social media site Tumblr introduced Tumblr TV, an animated GIF viewer which featured branding inspired by MTV's original 1980s on-air look.
Tumblr has been cited as a prominent location of aesthetic art and thus many have suggested MTV and Tumblr "switched identities".
The rebrand also incorporated a modified version of MTV's classic "I Want My MTV!" slogan, changed to read "I Am My MTV". Vice has suggested that the slogan change represents "the current generation's movement towards self-examination, identity politics and apparent narcissism."
MTV also introduced MTV Bump, a website that allows Instagram and Vine users to submit videos to be aired during commercial breaks, as well as MTV Canvas, an online program where users submit custom IDs to also be aired during commercial breaks.
Influence and controversiesEdit
The channel has been a target of criticism by various groups about programming choices, social issues, political correctness, sensitivity, censorship and a perceived negative social influence on young people.
Portions of the content of MTV's programs and productions have come under controversy in the general news media and among social groups that have taken offense.
Some within the music industry criticized what they saw as MTV's homogenization of rock 'n' roll, including the punk band the Dead Kennedys, whose song "M.T.V. – Get Off the Air" was released on their 1985 album Frankenchrist, just as MTV's influence over the music industry was being solidified.
MTV was also the major influence on the growth of music videos during the 1980s.
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.
Also around this time, HBO, as well as other premium channels such as Cinemax, Showtime and The Movie Channel, would occasionally play one or a few music videos between movies.
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.
A few markets also launched music-only channels including Las Vegas' KVMY (channel 21), which debuted in the summer of 1984 as KRLR-TV and branded as "Vusic 21". The first video played on that channel was "Video Killed the Radio Star", following in the footsteps of MTV.
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.
MTV has edited a number of music videos to remove references to drugs, sex, violence, weapons, racism, homophobia and/or advertising. Many music videos aired on the channel were either censored, moved to late-night rotation, or banned entirely from the channel.
In the 1980s, parent media watchdog groups such as the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC) criticized MTV over certain music videos that were claimed to have explicit imagery of satanism.
As a result, MTV developed a strict policy on refusal to air videos that may depict Satanism or anti-religious themes.
This policy led MTV to ban music videos such as "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden in 1991 and "Megalomaniac" by Incubus in 2004, however, the controversial band Marilyn Manson was among the most popular rock bands on MTV during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
On September 28, 2016, on an AfterBuzz TV live stream, Scout Durwood said that MTV had a "no appropriation policy" that forbid her from wearing her hair in cornrows in an episode of Mary + Jane. She said, "I wanted to cornrow my hair, and they were like, 'That's racist.'"
Andrew Dice ClayEdit
During the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards ceremony, comedian Andrew Dice Clay did his usual "adult nursery rhymes" routine (which he had done in his stand-up acts) after which the network executives imposed a lifetime ban.
Billy Idol's music video for the song "Cradle of Love" originally had scenes from Clay's film "The Adventures of Ford Fairlane" when it was originally aired, but scenes from the film were later excised.
During the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Clay was in attendance where he confirmed that the channel lifted the ban.
In the wake of controversy that involved a child burning down his house after allegedly watching "Beavis and Butt-head", MTV moved the show from its original 7:00 pm time slot to an 11:00pm time slot.
Also, Beavis' insane tendency to flick a lighter and yell "fire" was removed from new episode and controversial scenes were removed from existing episodes before their rebroadcast.
Some extensive edits were noted by series creator Mike Judge after compiling his Collection DVDs, saying that "some of those episodes may not even exist actually in their original form."
Dude, This SucksEdit
A pilot for a show called "Dude, This Sucks" was canceled after teens attending a taping at the Snow Summit Ski Resort in January of 2001 were sprayed with liquidized fecal matter by a group known as "The Shower Rangers".
The teens later sued with MTV later apologizing and ordering the segment's removal.
Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime showEdit
After Viacom's purchase of CBS, MTV was selected to produce the Super Bowl XXXV halftime show in 2001, airing on CBS and featuring Britney Spears, NSYNC and Aerosmith.
Due to its success, MTV was invited back to produce another halftime show in 2004, which would spark a nationwide debate and controversy that would drastically change Super Bowl halftime shows, MTV's programming, and radio censorship.
When CBS aired Super Bowl XXXVIII in 2004, MTV was again chosen to produce the halftime show, with performances by such artists as Nelly, Diddy, Janet Jackson, and Justin Timberlake.
The show became controversial, however, after Timberlake tore off part of Jackson's outfit while performing "Rock Your Body" with her, revealing her right breast. All involved parties apologized for the incident, and Timberlake referred to the incident as a "wardrobe malfunction."
Michael Powell, former chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, ordered an investigation the day after broadcast. In the weeks following the halftime show, MTV censored much of its programming. Several music videos, including "This Love" and "I Miss You", were edited for sexual content.
In September 2004, the FCC ruled that the halftime show was indecent and fined CBS $550,000. The FCC upheld it in 2006, but federal judges reversed the fine in 2008. The Super Bowl itself would not feature another modern act for its halftime show until The Black Eyed Peas performed at Super Bowl XLV in 2011.
Timberlake and Jackson's controversial event gave way to a "wave of self-censorship on American television unrivaled since the McCarthy era".
After the sudden event, names surfaced such as nipplegate, Janet moment, and boobgate, and this spread politically, furthering the discussion into the 2004 presidential election surrounding "moral values" and "media decency."
The Christian right organization American Family Association has also criticized MTV from perceptions of negative moral influence, brutally describing MTV as promoting a "pro-sex, anti-family, pro-choice, drug culture".
In 2005, the Parents Television Council (PTC) released a study titled "MTV Smut Peddlers", which sought to expose excessive sexual, profane, and violent content on the channel, based on MTV's spring break programming from 2004.
Jeanette Kedas, an MTV network executive, called the PTC report "unfair and inaccurate" and "underestimating young people's intellect and level of sophistication" while L. Brent Bozell III, then-president of the PTC, stated: "the incessant sleaze on MTV presents the most compelling case yet for consumer cable choice", referring to the practice of cable and satellite companies to allow consumers to pay for channels à la carte.
In April 2008, PTC released The Rap on Rap, a study covering hip-hop and R&B music videos rotated on programs 106 & Park and Rap City (both shown on BET) and Sucker Free on MTV. PTC urged advertisers to withdraw sponsorship of those programs whose videos PTC stated targeted children and teenagers containing adult content.
MTV received significant criticism from Italian American organizations for Jersey Shore, which premiered in 2009.
The controversy was due in large part to the manner in which MTV marketed the show, as it liberally used the word "guido" to describe the cast members. The word "guido" is generally regarded as an ethnic slur when referring to Italians and Italian Americans.
One promotion stated that the show was to follow, "eight of the hottest, tannest, craziest Guidos" while yet another advertisement stated, "Jersey Shore exposes one of the tri-state area's most misunderstood species ... the GUIDO. Yes, they really do exist! Our Guidos and Guidettes will move into the ultimate beach house rental and indulge in everything the Seaside Heights, New Jersey scene has to offer."
Prior to the series debut, Unico National formally requested that MTV cancel the show. In a formal letter, the company called the show a "direct, deliberate and disgraceful attack on Italian Americans."
Unico National President Andre DiMino said in a statement, "MTV has festooned the 'bordello-like' house set with Italian flags and red, white and green maps of New Jersey while every other cutaway shot is of Italian signs and symbols. They are blatantly as well as subliminally bashing Italian Americans with every technique possible."
Around this time, other Italian organizations joined the fight, including the NIAF and the Order Sons of Italy in America.
MTV responded by issuing a press release which stated in part, "The Italian American cast takes pride in their ethnicity. We understand that this show is not intended for every audience and depicts just one aspect of youth culture."
Following the calls for the show's removal, several sponsors requested that their ads not be aired during the show. These sponsors included Dell, Domino's Pizza and American Family Insurance.
Despite the loss of certain advertisers, MTV did not cancel the show. Moreover, the show saw its audience increase from its premiere in 2009, and continued to place as MTV's top-rated programs during Jersey Shore's six-season run, ending in 2012.
Resolutions for White GuysEdit
In December 2016, MTV online published a social justice oriented New Year's resolution video telling white men how they could improve themselves in 2017. The video caused widespread outrage online and was deleted from MTV's YouTube channel.
The video was then reuploaded to their channel, with MTV claiming the new video contained "updated graphical elements". The new video quickly received over 10,000 dislikes and fewer than 100 likes from only 20,000 views, and MTV deleted the video for a second time.
In addition to its regular programming, MTV has a long history of promoting social, political and environmental activism in young people.
The channel's vehicles for this activism have been Choose or Lose, encompassing political causes and encouraging viewers to vote in elections; Fight For Your Rights, encompassing anti-violence and anti-discrimination causes; think MTV; and MTV Act and Power of 12, the newest umbrellas for MTV's social activism.
Choose or LoseEdit
In 1992, MTV started a pro-democracy campaign called Choose or Lose, to encourage over 20 million people to register to vote, and the channel hosted a town hall forum for then-candidate Bill Clinton.
In recent years, other politically diverse programs on MTV have included True Life, which documents people's lives and problems, and MTV News specials, which center on very current events in both the music industry and the world.
One special show covered the 2004 US Presidential election, airing programs focused on the issues and opinions of young people, including a program where viewers could ask questions of Senator John Kerry. MTV worked with P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" campaign, designed to encourage young people to vote.
Additionally, MTV aired a documentary covering a trip by the musical group Sum 41 to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, documenting the conflict there. The group ended up being caught in the midst of an attack outside of the hotel and were subsequently flown out of the country.
The channel also began showing presidential campaign commercials for the first time during the 2008 US presidential election. This has led to criticism with Jonah Goldberg opining that "MTV serves as the Democrats' main youth outreach program."
MTV Act and Power of 12Edit
In 2012, MTV launched MTV Act and Power of 12, its current social activism campaigns. MTV Act focuses on a wide array of social issues while Power of 12 was a replacement for MTV's Choose or Lose and focused on the 2012 US presidential election.
In 2016, MTV continued its pro-democracy campaign with Elect This, an issue-oriented look at the 2016 election targeting Millennials.
Original content under the "Elect This" umbrella includes "Infographica," short animations summarizing MTV News polls; "Robo-Roundtable," a digital series hosted by animatronic robots; "The Racket," a multi-weekly digital series; and "The Stakes," a weekly political podcast.
Since its launch in 1981, the brand "MTV" has expanded to include many additional properties beyond the original MTV channel, including a variety of sister channels in the US, dozens of affiliated channels around the world, and an Internet presence through MTV.com and related websites.
Sister channels in the USEdit
MTV operates a group of channels under MTV Networks (a name that continues to be used for the individual units of the now Viacom Media Networks, a division of corporate parent Viacom).
In 1985, MTV saw the introduction of its first true sister channel, VH1, which was originally an acronym for "Video Hits One" and was designed to play adult contemporary music videos. Today, VH1 is aimed at celebrity and popular culture programming which include many reality shows.
Another sister channel, CMT, targets the country music and southern culture market.
The advent of satellite television and digital cable brought MTV greater channel diversity, including its current sister channels MTV2 and MTV Tr3́s (now Tr3́s), which initially played music videos exclusively but now focus on other programming. MTV also broadcasts MTVU, a college-oriented channel on campus at various universities.
In the 2000s, MTV launched MTV HD, a 1080i high definition simulcast feed of MTV. Until Viacom's main master control was upgraded in 2013, only the network's original series after 2010 (with some pre-2010 content) are broadcast in high definition while music videos, despite being filmed for high definition presentation, were presented in 4:3 standard definition, forcing them into a windowboxing type of presentation; since that time all music videos are presented in HD when available, depending on director's preference.
"Jersey Shore" (despite being shot with widescreen HD cameras) is also presented with SD windowboxing. Pay television providers such as DirecTV, Dish Network, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T U-verse, and Verizon FiOS carry the HD channel.
MTV Networks also operates MTV Live, a high-definition channel that features original HD music programming and HD versions of music related programs from MTV, VH1 and CMT. The channel was launched in January 2006 as MHD (Music: High Definition). The channel was officially rebranded as MTV Live on February 1, 2016.
In 2005 and 2006, MTV launched a series of channels for Asian Americans. The first channel was MTV Desi, launched in July 2005, dedicated toward South-Asian Americans. Next was MTV Chi, in December 2005, which catered to Chinese Americans. The third was MTV K, launched in June 2006 and targeted toward Korean Americans.
Each of these channels featured music videos and shows from MTV's international affiliates as well as original US programming, promos, and packaging. All three of these channels ceased broadcasting on April 30, 2007.
On August 1, 2016, the 35th anniversary of the original MTV's launch, VH1 Classic was rebranded as MTV Classic. The channel's programming focused on classic music videos and programming (including notable episodes of MTV Unplugged and VH1 Storytellers), but skews more towards the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The network aired encores of 2000s MTV series such as Beavis and Butt-Head and Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. The network's relaunch included a broadcast of MTV's first hour on the air, which was also simulcast on MTV and online via Facebook live streaming.
MTV Classic only retained three original VH1 Classic programs, which were That Metal Show, Metal Evolution and Behind the Music Remastered, although repeats of current and former VH1 programs such as Pop-Up Video and VH1 Storytellers remained on the schedule.
However, the rebranded MTV Classic had few viewers, and declined quickly to become the least-watched English-language cable network rated by Nielsen at the end of 2016. At the start of 2017 it was re-programmed into an all-video network.
In the late 1980s, before the World Wide Web, MTV VJ Adam Curry began experimenting on the Internet. He registered the then-unclaimed domain name "MTV.com" in 1993 with the idea of being MTV's unofficial new voice on the Internet.
Although this move was sanctioned by his supervisors at MTV Networks at the time, when Curry left to start his own web-portal design and hosting company, MTV subsequently sued him for the domain name, which led to an out-of-court settlement.
The service hosted at the domain name was originally branded "MTV Online" during MTV's first few years of control over it in the mid-1990s.
It served as a counterpart to the America Online portal for MTV content, which existed at AOL keyword MTV until approximately the end of the 1990s. After this time, the website became known as simply "MTV.com" and served as the Internet hub for all MTV and MTV News content.
MTV.com experimented with entirely video-based layouts between 2005 and 2007. The experiment began in April 2005 as MTV Overdrive, a streaming video service that supplemented the regular MTV.com website.
Shortly after the 2006 Video Music Awards, which were streamed on MTV.com and heavily utilized the MTV Overdrive features, MTV introduced a massive change for MTV.com, transforming the entire site into a Flash video-based entity.
Much of users' feedback about the Flash-based site was negative, demonstrating a dissatisfaction with videos that played automatically, commercials that could not be skipped or stopped, and the slower speed of the entire website.
The experiment ended in February 2006 as MTV.com reverted to a traditional HTML-based website design with embedded video clips, in the style of YouTube and some other video-based websites.
From 2006 to 2007, MTV operated an online channel, MTV International, targeted to the broad international market. The purpose of the online channel was to air commercial-free music videos once the television channels started concentrating on shows unrelated to music videos or music-related programming.
The channel responded to the rise of the Internet as the new central place to watch music videos in October 2008 by launching MTV Music (later called MTV Hive), a website that featured thousands of music videos from MTV and VH1's video libraries, dating back to the earliest videos from 1981.
A newly created division of the company, MTV New Media, announced in 2008 that it would produce its own original web series, in an attempt to create a bridge between old and new media. The programming is available to viewers via personal computers, cell phones, iPods and other digital devices.
In the summer of 2012, MTV launched a music discovery web site called Artists.MTV. MTV stated, "While technology has made it way easier for artists to produce and distribute their own music on their own terms, it hasn't made it any simpler to find a way to cut through all the Internet noise and speak directly to all of their potential fans.
The summer launch of Artists.MTV is an attempt to help music junkies and musicians close the gap by providing a one-stop place where fans can listen to and buy music and purchase concert tickets and merchandise."
Today, MTV.com remains the official website of MTV, and it expands on the channel's broadcasts by bringing additional content to its viewers.
The site's features include an online version of MTV News, podcasts, a commercial streaming service, movie features, profiles and interviews with recording artists and from MTV's television programs.