MTV (originally an initialism of Music Television) is an American basic cable and satellite television channel owned by the MTV Networks Music & Logo Group, a unit of the Viacom Media Networks division of Viacom.
The channel itself is headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, and is a subsidiary of Viacom Inc. Launched on August 1, 1981, the original purpose of the channel was to play music videos guided by television personalities known as “video jockeys,” or VJs. In its early years, MTV’s main target demographic were young adults, but today, MTV’s programming is primarily targeted at adolescents and teenagers in addition to young adults.
MTV has spawned numerous sister channels in the U.S. and affiliated channels internationally, some of which have gone independent. MTV’s influence on its audience, including issues related to censorship and social activism, has been a subject of debate for years.
As of August 2013, approximately 97,654,000 American households (85.51% of households with television) receive MTV.
On Saturday, August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m. Eastern Time, MTV launched with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” spoken by John Lack, and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia, which took place earlier that year, and of the launch of Apollo 11. Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching rock tune composed by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over photos of the Apollo 11 moon landing, with the flag featuring MTV’s logo changing various colors, textures, and designs. MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a conceit. Seibert said they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong’s “One small step” quote, but lawyers said Armstrong owns his name and likeness, and Armstrong had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound.
The first music video shown on MTV was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star”, this was followed by the video for Pat Benatar’s “You Better Run”. Sporadically, the screen would go black when an employee at MTV inserted a tape into a VCR. MTV’s lower third graphics that appear near the beginning and end of music videos would eventually use the recognizable Kabel typeface for about 25 years, but these graphics differed on MTV’s first day of broadcast; they were set in a different typeface and included record label information such as the year and label name.