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Station logo
General information
Reception: Cable , satellite , IPTV
Owner: Viacom
Executive Director: Sean Atkins
Start of broadcast: August 1, 1981 at 12:01 am
Program type: Special-interest program (entertainment)
List of TV channels

MTV (formerly an acronym for Music Television ) is an American television station with headquarters in New York City and international branches. It is part of the Viacom media group .

MTV was fed into cable television in the US from August 1, 1981 , and was at that time the first special interest program whose content was exclusively focused on music videos. 50 regional offshoots developed in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America, North America and the Middle East. According to the company, 481.5 million households in 179 countries are reached in this way.

Originally, MTV mainly showed music videos, but the US and British versions now do without them completely. Other international offshoots such as those in German-speaking countries have often restricted them to the early morning hours and mornings. Instead, MTV is now focusing on reality shows and series tailored to teenagers and young adults.


MTV goes back to the two main actors Michael Nesmith and John Lack . Nesmith became aware of the Top 40 format there on a record tour in Australia, which offered a chart show of places 1 to 40. He recognized the delayed broadcasting of music videos as an important special feature, whereby the performers or bands could be presented much better in the light in contrast to live recordings.

At that time, the first pioneers of the music video included the Beatles , who often could not be in the studio on time and therefore produced a recording on site and then sent it to the broadcasting line .

When Nesmith returned he was producing a test show: Popclips . This was a 30 minute chart show based on the Australian Top 40 show . Nesmith presented the test video, his single Rio plus and the video material to John Lack, then the second man at Warner AMEX Satellite Entertainment Company (WASEC), a joint venture between American Express and Warner Bros. Lack, liked the idea straight away, and he commissioned several episodes for Nickelodeon , Warner Cable's children's and youth broadcaster. When the success became apparent, he commissioned almost 50 episodes and eventually bought the entire concept and name.

In 1979 American Express acquired half of the shares in Warner Cable, and the new division was WASEC. One of their goals was to spread satellite television. But in order to create added value for customers, new channels had to be created. First, this happened with a movie channel and the children's channel Nickelodeon. WASEC was planning a third channel with an as yet undefined format , for which John Lack suggested a main focus on music. In January 1981, he proposed his concept to the boards of American Express and Warner Bros., who initially only accepted the concept with reservations. After the cooperation of all partners was achieved and a broadcasting station was completed, MTV went on air on August 1, 1981. The first video broadcast was Video Killed the Radio Star by the Buggles ; It was followed by You Better Run by Pat Benatar and She won't dance by Rod Stewart . The launch wasn't particularly successful, as only 800,000 households could actually watch MTV, and there were only 13 advertising partners and 168 music videos, 30 of which were by Rod Stewart alone. The top five VJs were Martha Quinn , Alan Hunter , Mark Goodman , JJ Jackson, and Nina Blackwood .

The early days were marked by many mishaps, such as the completely mixed up order of the moderations and even the occasional loss of sound. Nevertheless, MTV gradually built up its monopoly position in the USA and reached new audience records every year. The main reason was the coincidence with the strong expansion of the national cable network , which offered considerably more channels than the house antenna, and the free access to MTV.

The American MTV headquarters in Times Square , New York City (May 2004)

Nesmith, who jumped off the idea of ​​a music channel after the production of the first season of "Popclips", was disappointed with the idea of ​​moderation and the increased commercialization and advertising effect of the music videos. He saw music videos as a higher art form to complement music - the aim of WASEC, however, was to create another platform for music sales and to use the image of the bands and their sales-promoting visualization - and of course identification . This was reinforced by news from the music scene and young people who moderated the videos - the term “VJ” was coined for them, which announces videos instead of records.

Much of the music videos available that were played in the 1980s were wild cuts of concert videos and archive footage. As the station's popularity grew, the music industry saw the medium's potential as an advertising platform. Music videos were increasingly shot only for the music broadcasters. A side effect was the discovery of talented directors who later became successful in other genres as well.

Many careers began with appearances on MTV, including those of Duran Duran , Bon Jovi, and Michael Jackson . Even Madonna became known in the 1980s by MTV. Originally, the program mainly contained rock music by fair-skinned stars, which in the 1990s led to allegations of racial discrimination, which is why a significantly higher number of rap music videos were played.

In 1984 the MTV Video Music Awards , or VMAs for short, were introduced. They developed into one of the most important stages in the music industry and are now on an equal footing with the Grammy Awards . In 1991, the corresponding film counterpart, the MTV Movie Awards , came on the station. The MTV Europe Music Awards have also existed since 1994, specifically addressing European needs. In the 1990s, MTV started another trend with unplugged music. 1992 came with the show MTV Most Wanted, moderated by Ray Cokes , a chaotic live show on the station, in which the audience could participate interactively for the first time. The audience could ask for music videos, the entire studio crew was involved in the show as a family. Musicians and bands also performed live.

MTV began broadcasting music videos for 24 hours, but over time the program changed more to programs that were only marginally related to music. These include animated cartoons such as Beavis and Butt-Head and Daria , "Reality Shows" such as The Real World , MTV The Trip , comedy programs ( The Tom Green Show , Buzzkill , Jackass , The Zig & Zag Show ) and finally entire series, z. B. Undressed - Who with whom? . In summary, from the second half of the 1990s, the program design changed essentially from pure music videos to more comprehensive “youth-friendly” productions.

MTV can be received almost all over the world, mostly in regionally adapted formats. The introduction of digital satellite television brought further differentiations with it.

MTV Networks has also had a high-definition music channel called Palladia (started under the acronym MHD) in the US since 2006. In Europe and other parts of the world, MTV Networks is currently launching another HDTV music channel under the name MTVNHD. Since June 3, 2009, MTVNHD can also be received in Germany via the IPTV service at Telekom Entertain . In February 2010, MTV removed the name Music Television from its logo in the USA . On July 1, 2011, the logo previously known from the USA was adopted worldwide for all channels, including the pay channels, without the word Music Television .


At the beginning, MTV was almost an art form of its own within the TV landscape, which was characterized by new formats, fast image cuts and completely new video art. MTV was a pioneer in establishing a global pop culture . With the advent of the Internet and video portals like YouTube , MTV had to completely give up its great social significance .

In March 2018, the Berliner Woche assessed MTV's return to FreeTV as a failure, as the market shares of the German offshoot MTV Germany, based in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain, are hardly measurable.

In the song Money for Nothing by Dire Straits , whose music video hit the airwaves for the start of MTV Europe on August 1, 1987, the lines " I want my MTV ", sung by guest singer Sting , and " You play the guitar on the MTV ". The German rock band Selig wrote the song pop star , the phrase with in the lyrics portmanteau word " loves MTViva you " and having 1997 as the first single from the album Blender came on the market. “ Viva loves you ” was an advertising slogan of the competing TV channel Viva for a long time in the mid-1990s . In the song People Like Me by the Finnish glam rock band Hanoi Rocks , released on the 2002 album Twelve Shots On The Rocks , the line appears: “I'm the missing link, Radio and MTV, you need people like me ". In the same year, 2002, the German rock band Böhse Onkelz brought out an anti-song against the music channel entitled No Amnesty for MTV , on the album Dopamin . Regarding the media coverage of MTV about the right-wing extremist past of the Frankfurt rock band, the Böhsen Onkelz felt misunderstood and incorrectly reproduced by the music channel, which is why the quartet composed this song.

Europe and German-speaking countries

  • Main article: MTV Europe (English language programming in Europe)
  • Main article: MTV Germany (formerly MTV Central ; MTV offshoot for Germany and Austria)
  • Main article: MTV Switzerland (MTV branch for Switzerland)

See also


  • Michael Altrogge: Sounding Images: interdisciplinary study of music and images in video clips and their meaning for young people. Volume 1: The field and the theory. VISTAS , Berlin 2001, ISBN 3-89158-262-5
  • Michael Altrogge: Sounding Pictures. The material: the music videos. Vol 2. Vistas, Berlin 2001
  • Michael Altrogge: Sounding Images: interdisciplinary study of music and images in video clips and their meaning for young people. Volume 3: Reception: Structures of Perception. Vistas, Berlin 2001
  • Gerhard Bühler: Postmodernism, on the screen, on the canvas. Music videos, commercials, and David Lynch's Wild at Heart. 2002, ISBN 3-89796-034-6
  • Dietrich Helms, Thomas Phleps (Ed.): Clipped Differences. Gender representation in music video. Transcript, Bielefeld 2003, ISBN 3-89942-146-9
  • Arlett Kirsch: Music on TV. An auditory form of representation in an audiovisual medium. Wiku, Berlin 2002
  • Matthias Kurp, Claudia Hauschild, Klemens Wiese: Music television in Germany. Political, sociological and media economic aspects. 2002, ISBN 3-531-13776-X
  • Klaus Neumann-Braun, Axel Schmidt, Manfred Mai: Popvisions. Links to the future. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt 2003, ISBN 3-518-12257-6 .
  • Thorsten Quandt: Music videos in the everyday life of young people. Environment analysis and qualitative reception study. Deutscher Universitätsverlag, 1997, ISBN 3-8244-4225-6 .

Web links

Commons : MTV  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. MTV Networks Germany: MTV Networks International Facts ( Memento from December 18, 2008 in the Internet Archive )
  2. HD channel MTVNHD starts in the "Entertain" package from T-Home ( Memento from May 30, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  3. MTV deletes "Music" from the logo
  4. MTV is now on air with a new logo
  5. Berliner Wochenblatt Verlag GmbH: MTV comeback failed: Young people are bored of the music station! In: . ( [accessed on March 11, 2018]).
  6. Gonzo: The official and authorized biography of Böhse-Onkelz guitarist Matthias Röhr . Autobiography written with co-authors Dennis Diel and Marco Matthes, Hannibal Verlag , Höfen , 1st edition, November 2019. Chapter twelve: Some programs are already picture disturbances , pp. 256–265