Cheer Du Jour

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Aug 1 – Happy Birthday MTV!

on July 31, 2013

The rocket launched 32 years ago today, playing The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” as its first video (click here to see Wikipedia’s list of the first 206 videos played, for you super trivia buffs). The original VJs included: Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson, Martha Quinn.

Somehow, I survived the epic bummer that cable tv was not available in my hometown yet (and wouldn’t be for some time to come). I had to wait until 1986 to get my MTV. Because of this channel, I developed a temporary bout of insomnia, staying up til all hours watching videos. There was the occasional tv show (The Young Ones – I never missed an episode!), which seemed so strange on a music tv station.

It is interesting to look back at how newspapers heralded the arrival of a concept that would change the face of pop culture (and itself be so completely changed by 2013 that videos are the rarity on the schedule).

In a New York Times article from 7/26/81, Kenneth Gilpin reported that the “video disco channel” was initially expected to “beam into a million homes” during its freshman year. A month before its launch, MTV already had 2.1M subscribers (a single MTV posting showed over 46M likes on FaceBook today!). Despite “television technology used today is not yet capable of recreating high-quality sound”, success was predicted in harnessing the youth market.

This would be accomplished, according to Philip Dougherty’s 6/19/81 NY Times article, by targeting “the big kids, the kind that get turned on by the big rock sound and the weird assemblages that make it.” (…and that was decades before Jersey Shore!). In case you are wondering how much this golden opportunity to advertise might have cost back in the day, Dougherty reported that 30-second units were priced from $400 to $1,200.

Of course, Duran Duran’s influence on the fledgling channel can’t be understated. From DuranDuran.com, the timeline notes in 1981: “Before leaving America, Duran Duran visit with MTV, who had a staff of 16 people at the time. They discuss airing their videos and future programming ideas.” To continue the theme, click here to see the “Too Much Information” video.

..and this post wouldn’t be complete without Dire Straits’ classic MTV ditty:

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One response to “Aug 1 – Happy Birthday MTV!

  1. […] via Aug 1 – Happy Birthday MTV! | Cheer Du Jour. […]

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