Mtv As The Dominant Music Video Outlet
Music Television, a basic cable service known by its acronym MTV, remains the dominant music video outlet utilizing effective marketing and competitive business practices throughout its nineteen year history. The creation of the I Want My MTV marketing campaign and use of the campaign throughout the 1980's helped the cable outlet secure a substantial subscriber base. MTV dealt with competition from cable mogul Ted Turner's Cable Music Channel by creating a fighting brand, sister cable service VH-1, along with facing challenges by numerous other music video programming services. Through exclusivity agreements with record labels for music videos and limiting access to cable systems owned by MTV's parent company, MTV exercised anticompetitive and monopolistic means to fend off competition. From its launch, MTV successfully applied these marketing and competitive business practices. The board of the Warner - AMEX Satellite Entertainment Company (WASEC), a partnership between Warner Communications and American Express, gave approval in mid-January 1981 for the creation of a cable service that would broadcast music videos . Music videos, song length visual depictions used in the promotion of a musical act's latest release, were already popular on European television since the mid 1970s. A deadline of August 1, 1981 was set for the launch of this new cable service as programs featuring music videos were beginning to appear on cable outlets such as Home Box Office and USA Network. The set-up and programming of the entire operation was to be established in approximately six-and-a-half months.
Bob Pittman, a WASEC programming executive with a background in radio, wanted to ensure the new music video outlet delivered programming that appealed to its target audience of twelve to thirty-four-year-olds. This age demographic was both desirable and difficult for advertisers to reach as young adults typically did not watch much of what television offered at the time. He determined that, with little exception, the cable service would have no distinguishable programs. Video upon video would be presented by on-air personalities dubbed video jockeys, veejays for short, who would also provide entertainment news and conduct artist interviews. The absence of scheduled programming was, as stated by Tom McGrath in MTV: The Making of a Revolution, a radical notion as regularly scheduled programs were the norm on American television up to this point. Programming the new music video outlet in this manner made it as familiar as format commercial radio, while presenting it using the medium of television, to its young target audience.
The name of the new music video cable service began as TV-1, a name that Bob Pittman felt fit the youthful arrogance the channel embraced. With little support for the name from other WASEC executives, an M representing music replaced the 1 in the name. The name eventually evolved into MTV, Music Television.
With a name chosen for the new cable outlet, Fred Seibert, the Director of On-Air Promotion, was charged with commissioning a logo for MTV. Manhattan Design, the studio hired by Seibert, eventually developed the logo still used by the channel today: a large block M with a small TV that looks spray painted on. Many in Sales and Marketing at WASEC thought the logo left much to be desired, with one executive asking Seibert if he thought it would endure as long as the CBS eye. Almost two decades later, the MTV logo is arguably one of the most recognizable pop culture icons.
A video of the Buggle's Video Killed the Radio Star marked the launch of MTV at 12:01 AM August 1, 1981. Jack Banks notes in Monopoly Television: MTV's Quest to Control the Music that at the start, the music video channel was available in 2.1 million homes and was not offered in either New York City or Los Angeles. The absence of MTV from cable systems in these two cities presented several problems for the new cable outlet. The amount of available advertising time sold, only thirty percent at the channel's launch, did not seem likely to increase without advertising executives able to see MTV. National media coverage of the new music video channel was also lacking its start-up, with the exception of one reporter from the Los Angeles Times. An effective marketing campaign would