Music Television (MTV) made its debut on August 1, 1981, becoming available to 2.1 million cable television subscribers in the United States. The unique format of showing music twenty-four hours a day was an instantly appealing development in television. Although the notion of pairing music and video was not new, the idea of airing music videos every hour of the day and night was unique. MTV was developed by John Lack, the vice president of Warner-Amex-Satellite Entertainment, which also owned the children's station Nickelodeon. He was inspired by the Nickelodeon show called Popclips, a music video program developed by Michael Nesmith, former member of the pop group The Monkees. Lack saw the potential of this format and handed the project over to twenty-seven-year-old Robert Pittman, an up-and-coming television executive. MTV was launched with just thirteen advertisers and a library of only 125 videos, all provided by the recording studios. By 1984, however, MTV had captured an audience of over 24 million viewers and was showing a profit.
MTV thrived during the 1980s and helped launch many music careers. In the 1990s, however, "veejays" (video jockeys) had to find other kinds of programming in order to maintain the interest of so-called Generation X viewers, who in fact had grown up watching MTV. The channel began airing such shows as Yo! MTV Raps, Total Request Live, and MTV Beach House, as well as syndicated series like Real World, and Road Rules. The channel remained profitable and popular throughout the 1990s and today.
Further Information: Feinstein, Stephen. The 1980's: From Ronald Reagan to MTV: Decades of the Twentieth Century. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2000; Goldwin, Andrew. Dancing in the Distraction Factory: Music Television and Popular Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992; Lewis, Lisa A. Gender Politics and MTV: Voicing the Difference. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992; MTV. [Online] Available http:www.mtv.com, October 23, 2000; Powell, Kevin. Keeping it Real: Post MTV Reflections on Race, Sex, and Politics. New York: One World, 1998.