Evolution of MTV: From Buggles to ‘Teen Wolf’ (Photos)
Viacom’s music-centric network has taken many forms since “I want my MTV!”
August 1, 1981 – MTV takes off
MTV officially launched in 1981 with the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll” played over footage of the launch of the Columbia space shuttle, followed by the debut of the network’s now-iconic logo.
1981 – “Video Killed the Radio Star”
MTV’s kicked off it’s 24-hour rotation of music videos with The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star,” sending the format mainstream and forever changing music promotion.
1982 – “I want my MTV!”
MTV enlisted famous musicians — including Pat Benatar, David Bowie, The Police, Kiss, Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, Lionel Richie and Mick Jagger — in 1982 for a legendary marketing campaign calling on viewers to ask their cable companies to carry the network.
1983 – Michael Jackson breaks the color barrier
In its earliest days, MTV focused mainly on rock music by white artists, leading to cries of racial discrimination. The network finally reversed course in 1983 when it was pressured into airing Michael Jackson’s video for “Billie Jean,” followed closely by “Beat It” and the hugely popular “Thriller.”
September 14, 1984 – The first VMAs
MTV debuted the original Video Music Awards in 1984, with Madonna doing a live performance of her single “Like a Virgin,” and The Cars’ “You Might Think” walking away with the moonman for Video of the Year.
May 1992 – “The Real World”
MTV stopped being polite and started getting real in 1992 with the premiere of “The Real World,” basically inventing the modern reality TV genre in the process and setting the stage for hundreds of imitators in years to come.
September 1998 – “Total Request Live”
As MTV continued to shift away to other kinds of programming in the late ’90s, the Carson Daly-hosted “TRL” became the network’s main outlet for music videos, featuring a countdown of the most-requested videos of the day.
The most-watched MTV series when it premiered, “The Osbournes” documented the domestic life of Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne, making it one of the first entrants in the now-common “celebreality” genre.
September 2004 – “Laguna Beach”
A year after the premiere of Fox’s “The OC,” MTV debuted the reality series “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County,” the world’s first introduction to the life of Lauren “L.C.” Conrad. The even more popular spinoff “The Hills” followed in 2006, blurring the line between scripted and unscripted.
November 2008 – “TRL” comes to an end
The series finale of “TRL” marked the end of an era for MTV, with the music-centric program taking its final bow at a time when “The Hills” was hitting its peak, and “Jersey Shore” and “16 and Pregnant” — a show which would eventually birth three editions of spin-off “Teen Mom” — were less than a year away.
December 2009 – “Jersey Shore”
Snooki, JWoww and The Situation became household names when the “Real World”-inspired series “Jersey Shore” hit the network and became one of the most popular shows on cable TV at the time.
June 2010 – A push for scripted series
MTV began its push into scripted programming in 2010 with disappointments like “The Hard Times of RJ Berger” and a U.S. adaptation of “Skins” balanced out by major hits like the comedy “Awkward” and especially the highly successful “Teen Wolf.”
January 2016 – “The Shannara Chronicles”
For years the network struggled to find a show that could match the success of “Teen Wolf,” so in 2016 MTV bet big on “The Shannara Chronicles,” an expensive adaptation of the series of fantasy novels by Terry Brooks.
July 2016 – The end in sight for “Teen Wolf”
Series creator Jeff Davis announced at San Diego Comic-Con that “Teen Wolf” would come to an end in 2017, leaving viewers to wonder what the network’s programming slate would look like once its tentpole program goes off the air.
September 15, 2016 – “Wonderland”
At the network’s upfronts presentation in April, MTV announced it would be bringing music back to MTV with a few new music-themed programs, including a new multi-platform live performance show “Wonderland” and the return of the long-running “MTV Unplugged.”