While the launch of HBO (in November 1972) is generally given the merit of starting the multi-channel revolution in US homes, it was the launch of MTV, thirty years ago today in 1981, that really kick-started the drift away from network television, and along with CNN (June 1 1980) saw a very real enthusiasm created for niche TV.
MTV created a generation who saw it as cool, it spawned fashion in clothing, film and video – and of course, music. It created the pop-generation where to watch MTV was a badge of membership. It created an on-air ‘club’ where ‘I want my MTV’ became the mantra of millions.
On the downside, perhaps, was its three-minute bites of everything, which had they stayed at three minutes might not have been so bad, but quickly became three-second bites of video content, where it was assumed that viewers would not stay watching if video items were any longer than nano-second slices of fast-moving jump cuts.
It also gave us VJs, and in time VH-1 and a zillion impersonating channels around the globe. But somehow or other MTV remains important, the grand-daddy of them all, yet still only 30-years young.