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MTV Launch

Updated: Aug 7, 2020




Thirty-nine years ago, on August 1, MTV (originally an initialism of Music Television) is an American multinational cable channel, was launched. Based in New York City, it serves as the flagship property of the ViacomCBS Domestic Media Networks. MTV was originally first tested on December 1, 1977 as Sight on Sound, but was officially launched in 1981:




Originally music videos were guided by television personalities known as "video jockeys" (VJs). Here is a clip of the original MTV broadcast featuring the "V.J.'s:



The screen went black infrequently when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR. MTV's lower third graphics that appeared near the beginning and end of music videos eventually used the recognizable Kabel typeface for about 25 years, but these graphics varied on MTV's first day of broadcast; they were set in a different typeface and included information such as the year and record label name.


The first music video shown on MTV was The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star", originally available only to homes in New Jersey. Here is a clip of that video:



Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" had built in lyrics and created graphics that were revolutionary at the time;



Bands like the all female U.S. punk-pop group "The Go Go's" were given an opportunity to be seen and heard by a large audience which fueled the sales of their music:




Early on, there had been some resistance to air videos featuring African American performers. Michael Jackson' s "Thriller" Video finally shattered through and completely changed the game by setting a new creative standard for making music videos with a "story-telling" element. Here is of the Thriller Video:



In the years since its inception, the network significantly toned down its focus on music in favor of original reality programming targeting teenagers and young adults. MTV has spawned numerous sister channels in the U.S. and affiliated channels internationally, some of which have gone independent, with approximately 90.6 million American households in the United States receiving the channel.


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