How well do you know MTV?



9 Questions

What was MTV's original purpose when it was launched in 1981?

Who were the five original VJs on MTV in 1981?

What was MTV's earliest format modeled after?

What was the name of the first MTV Video Music Awards show, and when was it produced?

When did MTV introduce Total Request Live (TRL), and what was its purpose?

What was the reason for MTV's reduction in music videos in the late 1990s?

What was MTV's famous slogan introduced in the early 1980s?

What was the controversial incident that occurred during MTV's Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004?

What was the purpose of MTV's Choose or Lose campaign in 1992?


MTV: A History of the American Cable Television Channel

  • MTV (Music Television) is a 24-hour American cable music video channel that was officially launched on August 1, 1981.

  • The channel was originally launched to air music videos and related programming as guided by television personalities known as video jockeys or VJs.

  • In recent years, MTV has significantly toned down its focus on music in favor of original reality programming for teenagers and young adults.

  • MTV has spawned numerous sister channels in the United States and affiliated channels internationally, some of which have since gone independent.

  • Approximately 90.6 million households in the US received MTV as of January 2017.

  • MTV's earliest format was modeled after AOR (album-oriented rock) radio and underwent a transition to emulate a full Top 40 station in 1984.

  • MTV's five original VJs in 1981 were Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, J. J. Jackson, and Martha Quinn.

  • In 1984, the channel produced its first MTV Video Music Awards show, or VMAs, which are now MTV's most watched annual event.

  • MTV began its annual Spring Break coverage in 1986, setting up temporary operations in Daytona Beach, Florida, for a week in March, broadcasting live eight hours per day.

  • MTV has covered global benefit concert series live, such as the Live Aid concerts in 1985 and the Live 8 concerts in 2005.

  • Beginning in late 1997, MTV progressively reduced its airing of rock music videos, leading to the slogan among skeptics, "Rock is dead."

  • By 2000, MTV had shifted its focus to new rock acts such as Linkin Park, Sum 41, Jimmy Eat World, Mudvayne, Cold, At the Drive-In, Alien Ant Farm, and others.MTV, or Music Television, was launched on August 1, 1981, and was initially dedicated to playing music videos 24/7. The channel quickly became popular and helped promote many artists and bands. In the mid-1990s, MTV began airing fewer music videos and started producing more reality shows, which led to a decline in the channel's music focus. MTV introduced Total Request Live (TRL) in 1998, a live daily top 10 countdown show hosted by Carson Daly. TRL became a huge success and played a significant role in promoting pop, rock, R&B, and hip hop music videos. From 1995 to 2000, MTV played 36.5% fewer music videos. The reduction in music videos was attributed to the rise of social media and websites like YouTube as an outlet for music videos. MTV became known for its reality programming and adult animation shows. The channel also ventured into producing films aimed at young adults through its production label, MTV Films. MTV launched a new production unit under the name MTV Studios in 2018, focused on producing new versions of MTV's library shows. In 2010, MTV's main channel permanently shifted from music to scripted and reality television, whilst continuing the original format via sister channels like MTV Live and MTV-U. The channel's programming has covered a wide variety of genres and formats aimed at adolescents and young adults. MTV's logo was designed in 1981 by Manhattan Design under the guidance of original creative director Fred Seibert. The channel's full text "MUSIC TELEVISION" was eliminated from the logo in 2010. MTV's famous slogan "I Want My MTV!" was introduced in the early 1980s and became a cultural phenomenon.MTV: A History of Iconic Advertising and Controversies

  • MTV's "I Want My MTV!" advertising campaign was launched in 1982, featuring popular artists and celebrities interacting with the MTV logo and encouraging viewers to request it from their pay television providers.

  • The campaign was produced by Buzzco Productions and directed by Thomas Schlamme, Alan Goodman, and Candy Kugel.

  • MTV has been criticized for its programming choices, social issues, censorship, and perceived negative social influence on young people.

  • During MTV's first few years, very few black artists were featured, with only a select few, including Michael Jackson and Prince, receiving airplay.

  • MTV refused to play Rick James' "Super Freak" video and David Bowie criticized the lack of black artists during an on-air interview with VJ Mark Goodman in 1983.

  • MTV's director of music programming claimed that it was difficult to find African American artists whose music fit the channel's format, while critics pointed out that record companies were not funding videos for black artists because they knew they would have difficulty persuading MTV to play them.

  • In 2021, current MTV Entertainment Group president Chris McCarthy acknowledged that not playing enough diverse music was a mistake in the early years.

  • Other channels launched music-only channels, including TBS's Night Tracks, NBC's Friday Night Videos, and Disney Channel's DTV.

  • MTV has edited and censored many music videos over the years, with parent media watchdog groups criticizing the channel over certain videos that were claimed to have explicit imagery of satanism.

  • MTV was sued by Hungary's public broadcaster Magyar Televízió over trademark infringement when the Hungarian version of the music channel was launched in 2007.

  • MTV imposed a lifetime ban on comedian Andrew Dice Clay after his routine at the 1989 MTV Video Music Awards, while controversial scenes were removed from existing episodes of Beavis and Butt-head before their rebroadcast.

  • A pilot for a show called Dude, This Sucks was canceled after teens attending a taping were sprayed with liquidized fecal matter by a group known as "The Shower Rangers."

  • MTV's Super Bowl XXXVIII halftime show in 2004 sparked controversy after Justin Timberlake tore off part of Janet Jackson's outfit during their performance, revealing her right breast.Controversies and Social Activism of MTV

  • MTV has been involved in several controversies over the years, including the Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake Super Bowl halftime show incident in 2004, which led to a wave of self-censorship on American television.

  • The Parents Television Council (PTC) released a study in 2005 titled "MTV Smut Peddlers", which criticized MTV's spring break programming for excessive sexual, profane, and violent content.

  • Italian American organizations criticized MTV for the reality show Jersey Shore, which premiered in 2009 and used the word "guido" to describe the cast members, leading to calls for the show's cancellation.

  • MTV has a history of promoting social, political, and environmental activism in young people through campaigns like Choose or Lose, Fight For Your Rights, and MTV Act and Power of 12.

  • MTV's Choose or Lose campaign in 1992 encouraged over 20 million people to register to vote and hosted a town hall forum for then-candidate Bill Clinton.

  • MTV is aligned with Rock the Vote, a campaign to motivate young adults to register and vote.

  • MTV's current social activism campaigns are MTV Act and Power of 12, with the latter focused on the 2012 US presidential election.

  • In 2016, MTV continued its pro-democracy campaign with Elect This, an issue-oriented look at the 2016 election targeting Millennials.

  • MTV has expanded to include many additional properties beyond the original MTV channel, including sister channels in the US like VH1, CMT, MTV2, and MTV Tr3́s, as well as an Internet presence through and related websites.

  • experimented with entirely video-based layouts between 2005 and 2007, and in the summer of 2012, MTV launched a music discovery website called the MTV Artists Platform.

  • MTV New Media, a newly created division of the company, announced in 2008 that it would produce its own original web series, available to viewers via personal computers, cell phones, iPods, and other digital devices.

  • remains the official website of MTV, offering an online version of MTV News, podcasts, a commercial streaming service, movie features, profiles and interviews with recording artists, and content from MTV's television programs.


Think you're an expert on MTV's history and controversies? Test your knowledge with this quiz covering the iconic cable television channel. From its early days as a music video destination to its current focus on reality programming, this quiz covers it all. You'll also be challenged on MTV's advertising campaigns, controversies, and social activism. So, put on your thinking cap and take this quiz to see how much you really know about MTV!

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