When Did MTV Stop Playing Music Videos?

Since the early 80s, MTV has been the hallmark of music videos. However, MTV’s popularity began to decrease with the advent of social media apps and YouTube. From the early 2000s, they reduced playing music videos and started releasing different shows instead.

MTV has a special place in music history thanks to the music video era from the early 80s to the early 2000s. Whenever a band or an artist released a new single, fans eagerly awaited the music video on MTV, which was always the first place a new music video would be released.

In years, MTV became a special cable TV channel, which had its own culture and fanbase. It shaped music history by choosing music videos and deciding the course of mainstream music. But, just like most cable TV channels, it could not compete with other platforms and social media, which forced MTV to change its form and approach to music videos.

Why Did MTV Stop Playing Music Videos?

There are plenty of reasons why MTV, the Music Television, stopped playing music videos, such as competition on TV, short-form content, a small audience, lack of new content, and new platforms like YouTube and social media apps. For all these reasons, MTV had to change its approach to survive.

MTV did not suddenly stop playing music videos but did so gradually with a long process. The change started in the late ’90s when MTV began airing different shows than music videos. 

The first time was a hybrid between music video content and different reality shows. With time the space of reality shows got more prominent while the duration of music videos got shorter and shorter.

MTV had to go through this change mainly due to economic reasons. The times were changing, and it was pretty challenging for a cable TV channel to survive just with 4 or 5-minute music video clips playing 24 hours every day.

MTV started producing different reality shows to attract the audience for more extended periods to have more viewer ratings and income through commercials which became successful enough as MTV is still alive today.

High Competition On TV

The competition on TV is very high, with many cable TV channels releasing new content each week. The competition was even more intense back in the 90s when the internet was not a big part of daily life. In the 90, there were new music video channels like VH1 and BET, which made life harder for MTV.

MTV needed a new form of content to survive as the audience who liked music videos were already not big enough, and now there were different players in the game to share the cake.

Short-Form Content

Another problem for MTV was that airing only music videos meant that all the content was short, and there was a big chance that someone would not like a song or a video changing to another channel. Short-form content is risky as it is harder to gauge the audience and keep them interested.

Small Audience

The audience that watches music video clips for long periods is quite small. Many people were checking the content on MTV but by skimming which was not good for the channel. When other music video channels started their life, the small audience was divided even more, making it very hard for these channels to survive.

Lack Of New Content

Another problem was the lack of new content. When you build your approach around music video clips and some small shows about music, the problem is that you run out of content very quickly. With no new material, the audience eventually lost interest and changed the channel.

That is why MTV took a new road producing and airing new reality shows to create a new type of audience who could engage more and for longer periods.

New Platforms Like Youtube and Social Media

The final hit to MTV came from technology when Youtube and social media started stealing the role of TV channels with their new, fresh, and more audience-oriented content. Artists started releasing their interviews, music videos, and all content through online platforms, which forced TV channels to change their approaches.

Today, almost nobody uses TV channels to watch new music videos or content because platforms like Youtube are the main places to go when you want to watch any kind of video.

Watching a TV channel for music videos instead of using Youtube is like listening to the radio when there is Spotify or Apple Music to listen to the songs you want whenever you like. It’s no longer practical, takes more time, and it is not sure that music videos that you like will be airing.

Are There Any Music Videos On MTV Today?

Today MTV has several channels for different kinds of content. MTV Classic is the one for music videos, which has different shows airing different blocks of music videos from different eras.

For example, ‘90s Nation plays music videos from the 1990s for an hour. There is also a show for 1980s heavy metal music. Just like these ones, there are several different shows for music videos from different genres, decades, and styles.

The original MTV channel was more focused on reality shows and different content than music videos, but the channel plays music videos very late at night when most people are asleep.

Conclusion

Due to the small target audience, too much competition on TV, new roles of platforms like Youtube and social media apps, and the natural short form of the music video content created too many challenges for MTV as a solo music video channel. 

MTV changed its approach starting from the late 90s until the late 2000s giving more space to reality shows than short music video content to survive on the TV and support themselves.

Berk Öztuna is a handpan player, percussionist, and guitarist. He has been playing multiple instruments over the last 10 years. He started his music career as a guitarist, playing with several bands before putting his main focus into playing the handpan.

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