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World Premier of MTV
August 1

By Sarah Lane
Jun 30, 2004, 10:50 PST


World Premier of Music Television (MTV)

Since the average age of today’s MTV viewer is between 18 and 24, most people watching now have no idea where the original concept came from. MTV, or rather Music Television, premiered on August 1, 1981, and was a household commodity by 1985. Why? Because a man named Robert W. Pittman decided to have music stars make mini movies of their hit songs complete with flashy visuals and sound effects. Combine that with the day’s hottest fashions and the “keep ‘em guessing” idea of which video comes next and you have . . . ta da! Music Television!

Robert Pittman was listed in the Spring 1995, Advertising Age special as one of "50 Who Made a Difference" in the history of television. Known as the “Father of MTV," he created the programming for MTV, which soon revolutionized the music business and launched the music video industry. He accomplished this at the ripe old age of 27! An entirely new generation of television programming, production, and commercials appeared that appealed to the younger generation. MTV went against all traditional (boring) rules of television and established an upbeat image and attitude that coincided with the anti-everything attitude of the under 30 generation. It was cutting edge with its easily recognizable logos and intro music. Pittman's goal was instant recognition and a unique look which, coming from the younger generation himself, was easily attainable. In essence, he created a brand new way to watch television.

Pittman believed that his generation processed information at a higher rate of speed than his parents, and had the foresight to assume that twenty somethings wouldn’t be confused by quick non-linear images. Another asset of Pittman’s was his ability to take his idea of music television and create the first profitable basic cable network. How did it work? The record companies paid for the programming and the videos gave radio stations their records, so MTV's programming content was virtually free! This brilliant business idea resulted in Pittman being named CEO of the MTV networks in 1983. He oversaw the redesign and relaunch of Nickelodeon, the creation of VH-1 and Nick at Nite, the expansion of MTV into global markets, and the company's 1984 initial public offering on the stock market. What became of this marketing genius? In 1987, Pittman left MTV after an unsuccessful attempt to buy out the network and instead co-founded Quantum Media with MCA.

So now you know how you got your MTV.

Source:       The Museum of Broadcast Communications

© Copyright 2004 by

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