MTV (acronym for Music Television) is a cable television network which was originally devoted to music videos, especially popular rock music. MTV later became an outlet for a variety of different material aimed at adolescents and young adults. Since 1985, MTV has been owned by Viacom.
The network was founded on August 1, 1981 as an operation of MTV Networks, with investments from such companies as Warner Communications and American Express. It was subsequently acquired by Viacom, Inc., becoming a wholly owned subsidiary. MTV's combination of music videos, youthful video jockeys, irreverent commentary, promotion of special rock concerts, and news and documentaries about bands and performers established the network's popularity with youthful viewers, and it became a leading promoter of new rock music and rock musicians. MTV is often seen from a 'real musicians' standpoint as uninteresting pop music that is over produced and fake. MTV seems to be a driving force in pop culture.
MTV's roots can be traced back to 1977, when Warner Amex Cable (a joint venture between Warner Communications and American Express) launched the first two-way interactive cable TV system, QUBE , in Columbus, Ohio. The QUBE system offered many specialized channels, including a children's channel called "Pinwheel" which would later become Nickelodeon. One of these specialized channels was Sight On Sound , a music channel that featured concert footage and music oriented TV programs; and with the interactive QUBE service, viewers could vote for their favorite songs and artists. The popularity of the channel on the QUBE system prompted Warner Amex to market the channel nationally to other cable services. That happened at midnight on August 1, 1981, with the adoption of a music video format, and a name change to "MTV - Music Television," an event that started a pop culture phenomenon.
MTV started in New York City in 1981, and became available in most of the United States in the mid-1980s with the nationwide expansion of cable.
Aptly, the first music video shown on MTV was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles (with similar tongue-in-cheek humor, the first video shown on MTV Europe was "Money for Nothing", by Dire Straits, which starts with the line "I want my MTV"). The early format of the network was modeled after Top 40 radio. Fresh-faced young men and women were hired to host the show's programming, and to introduce videos that were being played. The term "VJ" (video jockey) was coined, a play on the term "DJ" (disc jockey.) Many VJs eventually became celebrities in their own right. The early music videos that made up the bulk of the network's programming in the '80s were often crude promotional or concert clips from whatever sources could be found; as the popularity of the network rose, and record companies recognized the potential of the medium as a tool to gain recognition and publicity, they began to create increasingly elaborate clips specifically for the network. Several noted film directors got their start creating music videos.
A large number of rock stars of the 1980s and 1990s were made into household names by MTV. 1980s bands immediately identifiable with MTV include Duran Duran and Bon Jovi. Michael Jackson launched the second wave of his career as an MTV staple. Madonna rose to fame on MTV in the 1980s, and she is still heavily dependent on the network to promote her music.
In 1984 the network produced its first MTV Video Music Awards show. Seen as a fit of self-indulgence by a fledgling network at the time, the "VMAs" developed into an important music-industry showcase, and a hip antidote to the often-stuffy Grammy awards.
After MTV's programming changed to include more heavy metal and rap music, MTV Networks launched a second network, Video Hits 1 (VH1), in 1985. VH1 features more popular music than MTV. MTV Networks also owns Nickelodeon, a cable channel airing children's and family programming.
In 1991, the network would add a movie award show to similar success.
MTV started off showing music videos nearly full-time, but as time passed they introduced a variety of other shows, including animated cartoons such as Beavis and Butt-head and Daria; "reality" shows such as The Real World and Road Rules; prank/comedic shows such as The Tom Green Show, Jackass, and Punk'd; and sitcoms such as Undressed. By the second half of the 1990s, MTV programming consisted primarily of non-music programming. In 2002, MTV aired the first episode of another reality show, The Osbournes, based on the everyday life of former Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne, his wife Sharon, and two of their children, Jack and Kelly. The programme went on to become one of the network's biggest ever success stories; and kick-started a musical career for Kelly Osbourne, while Sharon Osbourne went on to present a talk show on US television. In 2003, Newlyweds, another popular reality TV show that follows the lives of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, a music celebrity couple, began; it has run for three seasons. The success of Newlyweds was followed in June 2004 by The Ashlee Simpson Show, which documented the beginnings of the music career of Ashlee Simpson, Jessica Simpson's sister. In the fall of 2004, Ozzy Osbourne's reality show Battle for Ozzfest aired.
In 2004, MTV's parent company Viacom bought Germany's largest provider for music television Viva Media AG, thereby creating the largest company for music on the European heartland. In November 2004, MTV announced it would begin airing in February 2005 MTV Base in Africa,  thereby reaching the world's last major populated area previously not served by MTV.
See also: List of MTV Shows
The advent of digital satellite and cable has also brought greater diversity including channels such as MTV2, which features the slogan "Where The Music's At". In the US, MTV2 focuses on playing music videos and other music-related programming; In Europe, MTV2 plays specific genres of music (mainly alternative and rock). Viacom, parent company of the MTV Networks, is also behind VH1, which is aimed at the older market segments with more focus on music from the 1970s and 1980s; and CMT, which targets the country music market.
See also: List of MTV diversification
In its early years, MTV was criticized as racist, since the acts it featured were nearly exclusively white. MTV executives countered by claiming that there were few—if any—promotional videos available from Black and other minority acts, although artists such as Diana Ross and The Jacksons had been making music videos before MTV existed. Shortly thereafter, the network began heavily featuring videos from Michael Jackson's album Thriller, in particular "Billie Jean" and "Thriller", which became two of the all-time most popular videos on the network. Subsequently, MTV would delve heavily into black musical acts, including developing several hip-hop music-themed programs such as Yo! MTV Raps, and a digital cable channel called MTV Jams.
Because of its visibility as a promotional tool for the recording industry, MTV has been criticized as overly commercial, and accused of denigrating the importance of music in the music industry, replacing it with a purely visual aesthetic. As early as 1985, some musicians were criticizing MTV for these reasons, perhaps most famously Dead Kennedys with "MTV Get Off The Air."
MTV UK has recently been under fire as it no longer airs any music videos at all, focusing primarily on MTV produced reality shows such as The Osbournes and Punk'd. Many argue, however, that as MTV runs nine music channels in the UK, it has delegated music videos to its genre channels in a bid to differentiate itself from the competition of the fourteen other music video-oriented channels. Videos are also often played in-between shows and at night.
MTV UK has also been attacked for over-use of on-screen graphics, such as logos, programme promotion and countdown timers, and its electronica-themed genre channel MTV Dance is often derided for playing a lack of dance music during the day, preferring a mix of pop-dance, pop and R&B. Ironically, the channel has also been criticized for lacking programming.
Critics also claim that bands sell well because they get a lot of exposure on MTV, rather than MTV picking the best bands to promote; and that MTV has too much influence in the music industry.
There have also been some critics who have said that MTV promotes bad behavior to the youth of America by embracing the behaviors of certain celebrities who are not good role models.
- "I want my MTV"
- "MTV... Proud as a Moon Man" (spoof of NBC's 1980 slogan Proud as a Peacock (We're Proud))
- "MTV Lives In Your Music"
- "Some People Just Don't Get It"
- "Watch and Learn"
- "Mmmm Tttt Vvvv"
MTV on Other Mediums
*MTV is wireless content available on Virgin Mobile USA phones. It can be accessed from both of Virgin Mobile USA's online portals; VirginXtras or VirginXL. MTV provides news, games, artist information, and other music-related features through this wireless site. MTV has been a partner of Virgin Mobile USA since the carrier's launch in the summer of 2002. Virgin Mobile also has a partnership with Comedy Central, which is owned by MTV Networks, the parent company of both networks.