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Subject: Article about MTV's expanding programming from 1988

Written By: woops on 09/01/09 at 2:30 pm


THE MEDIA BUSINESS; After Rebellious Youth, MTV Tries the System
Published: Monday, May 9, 1988

From the moment it arrived on Aug. 1, 1981, the cable-television music network MTV was everything the rest of television was not. It was fast, it was loud, it was scary to parents and, mostly, it was hip. Even the time it went on the air - one minute past midnight - was a kind of anti-television statement.

Robert W. Pittman, the young programming executive who conceived MTV, described his creation as ''a new form for television designed especially for TV babies.'' Viewers would never find his network in the television listings, he said, because it was ''a channel with no programs, no beginning, no middle, no end.''

Indeed, there was nothing much to list - in its early years MTV almost exclusively played four-minute rock videos, over and over. The concept exploded on the mass culture, revitalizing the pop music industry and changing the look of everything on mainstream television from commercials to police shows. A New Diversity

Now MTV is undergoing a fundamental transformation, embracing many of the philosophies and program types of traditional commercial television. To be sure, the network will still center on music videos, and their frenetic images will still influence television and Hollywood. But MTV has also introduced a half-hour dance show and a game show, and in the coming months it will try its hand at two staples of mainstream television, a critics' review show and a late-night talk show, a sort of ''Tonight Show'' for TV babies.

Prompting all this change are economic factors straight from the world of traditional commercial television - pressure to maintain revenue growth and to increase ratings, which at MTV dropped significantly three years ago and have remained roughly constant since.

Perhaps most important, MTV will now be used as a sort of testing ground for new programs, such as its game show, ''Remote Control,'' that can ultimately be sold into the lucrative syndication marketplace. MTV's sister network on cable, Nickelodeon, recently sold a game show called ''Double Dare'' into syndication, and is expected to reap as much as $15 million in profit from that program this year - nearly half Nickelodeon's operating profit, according to executives associated with the enterprise. The Importance of Change

Shortly after beginning MTV, Mr. Pittman, who is now heading his own entertainment company, was asked what his revolutionary new network would look like in five years. ''I have no idea, but it will be different from today,'' he said. ''If it's not, it's dead. You've got to have change for the sake of change.''

Change has arrived, but it is not just change for its own sake. It is partly prompted by changes in corporate ownership. MTV was started by the Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company, then sold to Viacom International, which was acquired by National Amusements Inc. in 1987.

Growth is now expected. ''Everybody always wants to see their business grow from a financial standpoint, and the expectation is that MTV will continue to grow,'' said Tom Freston, president and chief executive of MTV Networks.

Although MTV's ratings have remained steady, it has increased viewership in the last two years by adding cable systems, and can now claim about 240,000 viewers in a given minute. And although operating profit declined slightly last year, the network's projected profit of $32 million, on projected revenues of $135 million, would place it fourth among 17 basic cable channels, according to Paul Kagan Associates, a California-based firm that analyzes the cable industry.

In discussing the future of MTV, Mr. Freston and his associates now employ the language invented by the major broadcast networks, focusing on concepts like ''dayparting'' -scheduling programs in certain parts of the day, for a particular audience.

That is why ''Club MTV,'' the new dance program, is now playing at 3:30 P.M. MTV's researchers discovered that the program is favored by young girls, who are at home and in control of the television dial at that time.

''Remote Control,'' an offbeat television trivia game show, is aimed at college-aged viewers, and plays in the evening and late at night. Reruns of the British series ''Monty Python's Flying Circus,'' aimed at young adults, play at 7:30 P.M. The Peril of 'Zappers'

The value of long-form programs is that MTV was more vulnerable than other programming sources to the whims of ''zappers'' - viewers who use remote control devices to switch channels frequently. On a network on which programs end every four minutes, the danger is multiplied.

''They are state-of-the-art executioners,'' Mr. Freston said of the devices. ''It's almost like we always had an open invitation for people to leave MTV.''

But in moving away, even slightly, from its music programming, MTV risks alienating its core audience. ''There's a fundamental conflict here, but we think we've overcome it,'' Mr. Freston said. ''Basically we want to be untraditional, wacky, state-of-the-art TV. But what we find is that traditional television maxims apply here, too.''

Lee Masters, executive vice president of programming and the man most responsible for developing the new MTV look, said that the network can change and maintain its character. ''We're not trying to be more traditional,'' he said in an interview last week. ''We're very consciously trying to maintain the creative mantle of cutting edge and all that, but we do see changes of this kind can work for us and not necessarily dilute the image people have of us.''

''We started out as a rock-and-roll network,'' Mr. Freston added. ''Now we want to become a generational network, a fuller service, with the same attributes. The question is, how can we use those things which get people to stay longer and keep that mandate?''

Talk show... Ironically in 1989 "Arsenio Hall" came around on Fox affiliates and became a hit with young adults/teens

There was a talk show on MTV in 1988/1989 (?)  titled "Mouth to Mouth" that probably didn't last. (discovered it on YouTube and there's no info on the web about it, which pretty much explains how forgettable it was).

Found interesting...

MTV's ratings were down prior of 1988... well, it couldn't survive with only music videos and performances alone. Though "Week in Rock", "Club MTV",  "Unplugged", and "Video Music Awards" (started in 1984) were welcomed.  Along with   120 Minutes", "Headbanger's Ball", "Yo! MTV Raps", "Top 20 Countdown" and "Dial MTV".

"Remote Control", reruns of "Monty Python", "Young Ones", "The Monkees", and originals like "House of Style", "MTV Sports",  and later edgy/adult oriented cartoons ("Beavis & Butt-Head", "Liquid Television", "Aeon Flux", "Daria") and (blech) reality shows that pretty much dominates that network now ("Real World", "Road Rules", "Laguna Beach", "Osbournes").

Can't find any listings for MTV from 1988, though I'm sure it's much better than 1998 since it had videos in regular viewing hours and only a few hours of shows/specials (where in 1998 videos were mostly shown in the night/early morning and too many "Real World" marathons).

Also Viacom bought MTV in 1987, which it was previously owned by Warner-Amex

MTV risks alienating its core audience... yet already did only a few years later until it was pretty much a vast cesspool around 1997.

If MTV still aired music videos (besides a few hours in the dusk)/music relating programming, it probably would be like Fuse now...

Subject: Re: Article about MTV's expanding programming from 1988

Written By: Stinkyy on 11/13/09 at 1:58 pm

Are there any standard channels now that just play videos?

Not sure which demographic MTV appeals to, I was appalled at age 20 just how vapid and soulless it was.  That was 12 years ago, 1997.  Even their "MTV 2" failed, their expansion due to the popular complaint, "They just don't show videos."  Now they put all their B-programming there, mostly Jackass and shows about people doing gross-out contests.  Back to the main channel, today you can tune in to see "Sex with Mom and Dad," and "World's Strictest Parents."  Down with civilization!  Down with norms!   

VH1 was decent for awhile, but I never have noticed them playing videos except for their top 100s.

Now get off my lawn. 

Subject: Re: Article about MTV's expanding programming from 1988

Written By: apollonia1986 on 11/14/09 at 9:06 pm

  ;D That article was published the day after my second birthday. LOL.

(and my best friend was still in her mommy's tummy!)

And Club MTV was the best thing on that station.

Subject: Re: Article about MTV's expanding programming from 1988

Written By: Davester on 11/15/09 at 2:34 am

  The article was damn prophetic.  You mean you knew this was going to happen to and you didn't warn us?!  Shame on you woops, shame on you...

  MTV was always vapid and soulless but at one time I loved vapid and soulless.  Mark Goodman flubbing his lines GAVE it soul..!

  Stinkyy, karma +1 for that great rant..! ;D

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