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MTV is a cable television network, 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.

Its name is an acronym for Music TeleVision.

The network was founded in 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.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Diversification
3 Criticism
4 External links


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, for example, one was a childrens' 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 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 Butthead and Daria, "reality" shows such as The Real World and Road Rules, prank/comedic shows such as The Tom Green Show, Buzzkill, Jackass, Punk'd and Boiling Points, 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. MTV has another popular reality TV show that follows the lives of music celebrity couple, Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey called, Newlyweds.


MTV is now available across the globe in various regionalized formats (although often sharing a degree of programming) including:

The advent of digital satellite 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).

Other MTV channels include MTV Jams, MTV Hits, and MTV Espaņol in the USA, as well as MTV Dance and MTV Base in the UK. Viacom, which owns MTV Networks, is also behind VH1, which is aimed at the older market segements with more retro music, and also CMT, which targets the country music market.


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. Shortly thereafter, the network began heavily featuring videos from Michael Jackson's album Thriller, in particular the song "Billie Jean" which became one of the all-time most popular videos on the network. Subsequently MTV would delve heavily into black musical acts, including developing several rap music-themed programs.

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."

Critics also claim that bands sell well because they get lots of exposure on MTV, rather than MTV picking the best bands to promote, and that MTV has too much influence in the music industry.

See also: Carson Daly, List of MTV Shows, The Hit List by MTV

External links