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MTV Networks

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New York, NY 10036-5797
Phone: (212)846-6000

MTV: Music Television is a young adult cable television network headquartered in New York City and London. Originally devoted to music videos, especially popular music videos, MTV has since opted to show less music oriented programming, and has became an outlet for a variety of different television shows aimed at adolescents and young adults. Contrary to popular belief, the channel's name has nothing to do with music, and is not actually called Music Television. Music Television was an invention of fans because the channel played mostly music at the time it came out.

Broadcast began on August 1, 1981 as an operation of Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment Company, a joint venture of Warner Communications and American Express. WASEC, as it was known, consisted of two channels before the MTV launch: Nickelodeon, and The Movie Channel. In 1983, Warner and Amex spun off The Movie Channel to a company in partnership with Viacom, who contributed the pay TV channel Showtime. The new entity became known as Showtime/The Movie Channel.

In 1984, Warner and Amex attempted to take some cash out of their WASEC investment. The companies divested WASEC and it was renamed MTV Networks Inc. The parent companies registered for a stock IPO, which eventually went public at $15.00 per share. A year later, MTV saw the introduction of a sister channel, VH-1, short for Video Hits One. In 1986, MTV Networks Inc. was acquired by Viacom Inc., and was renamed MTV Networks, still a division of Viacom today. By 1987, Viacom itself was the target of a successful hostile takeover by National Amusements.

MTV's combination of music videos, youthful video jockeys, irreverent commentary, promotion of special rock concerts, and news and documentaries about bands and performers established the network's popularity with youthful viewers, and it became a leading promoter of new rock music and rock musicians. In the 90's, MTV was often considered to be the driving force in American musical pop culture, but this influence has dramatically declined.


MTV was created in 1977, when Warner-Amex Cable (a joint venture between Warner Communications and American Express) launched the first two-way interactive cable TV system, Qube, in Columbus, Ohio. The Qube system offered many specialized channels, including a children's channel called Pinwheel which would later become Nickelodeon. One of these specialized channels was Sight On Sound, a music channel that featured concert footage and music oriented TV programs; with the interactive Qube service, viewers could vote for their favorite songs and artists.

On August 1, 1981, MTV: Music Television launched with a programming format created by the visionary music producer, Bob Pittman (who later became president and chief executive officer, of MTV Networks).

A previous venture, a TV series under the name [PopClips], was created by Pittman and former Monkee-turned solo artist Michael Nesmith, the latter of whom by the late 1970's was turning his attention to the music video format. A disagreement between Nesmith and Pittman over the show's direction led Nesmith to relinquish control to Pittman soon after.

It went to air with the words (by original COO John Lack) "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll!" Appropriately, the first music video shown on MTV was "Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles. The second video shown was Pat Benatar's "You Better Run". (With similar tongue-in-cheek humor, the first video shown on MTV Europe was "Money for Nothing," by Dire Straits, which starts and finishes with repetition of the line "I want my MTV," voiced by Sting. On MTV Latino, the first video shown was "We Are Southamerican Rockers" by the Chilean band Los Prisioneros.)

The early format of the network was modeled after Top 40 radio. Fresh-faced young men and women were hired to host the show's programming, and to introduce videos that were being played. The term VJ (video jockey) was coined, a play on the acronym DJ (disc jockey.) Many VJs eventually became celebrities in their own right. The original five MTV VJs in 1981 were Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, J.J. Jackson and Martha Quinn. In 2005, this group (except for J.J. Jackson, who had died in 2004) was reunited as hosts on Sirius Satellite Radio. The original MTV theme song was a crunching guitar riff created by Jonathan Elias, played over a montage of moon landing and astronaut images. Other promotional spots featured animated MTV logos created by numerous animation studios, including work by such artists as Steve Fiorilla and Ken Brown.

The early music videos that made up the bulk of the network's programming in the '80s were often crude promotional or concert clips from whatever sources could be found; as the popularity of the network rose, and record companies recognized the potential of the medium as a tool to gain recognition and publicity, they began to create increasingly elaborate clips specifically for the network. Several noted film directors got their start creating music videos, including Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and David Fincher.

A large number of rock stars of the 1980s and 1990s were made into household names by MTV. 1980s bands immediately identifiable with MTV include Eurythmics, RATT, Culture Club, Def Leppard, Duran Duran and Bon Jovi. Michael Jackson launched the second wave of his career as an MTV staple. Madonna rose to fame on MTV in the 1980s. Madonna is the most successful video performer in MTV history, and to this day she uses MTV to market her music.

In 1984 the network produced its first MTV Video Music Awards show. Seen as a fit of self-indulgence by a fledgling network at the time, the "VMAs" developed into a music-industry showcase marketed as a hip antidote to the Grammy awards. In 1992, the network would add a movie award show with similar success.

After MTV's programming shifted towards heavy metal and rap music, MTV Networks launched a second network, Video Hits 1 (VH-1), in 1985. VH1 featured more popular music than MTV. Today, MTV Networks also owns Nickelodeon, a cable channel airing children's and family programming.

MTV started off showing music videos nearly full-time, but as time passed they introduced a variety of other shows. Many of these shows were originally intended for such channels such as the Disney Channel, Discovery Channel, Spike, and Fox Reality. The new genres include animated cartoons such as Beavis and Butt-head and Daria; "reality" shows such as The Real World and Road Rules; prank/comedic shows such as The Tom Green Show, Jackass, and Punk'd; and soap operas such as Undressed. By the second half of the 1990s, MTV programming consisted primarily of non-music programming. In 2000, MTV's Fear became the first 'scary' reality show where contestants filmed themselves. The show ran for three seasons and spawned numerous imitations, including the currently running Fear Factor on NBC. In 2002, MTV aired the first episode of another reality show, The Osbournes, based on the everyday life of former, Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne, his wife Sharon, and two of their children, Jack and Kelly. The show went on to become one of the network's biggest ever success stories and kick-started a musical career for Kelly Osbourne, while Sharon Osbourne went on to host a talk show on U.S. television. In 2003, Newlyweds, another popular reality TV show that follows the lives of Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, a music celebrity couple, began airing. It ran for three seasons and was ended after Jessica and Nick divorced. The success of Newlyweds was followed in June 2004 by The Ashlee Simpson Show, which documented the beginnings of the music career of Ashlee Simpson, Jessica Simpson's younger sister. In the fall of 2004, Ozzy Osbourne's reality show Battle for Ozzfest aired.

In 2004, MTV's parent company Viacom bought Germany's largest provider for music television Viva Media AG, thereby creating the largest company for music on the European mainland. In November 2004, MTV announced it would begin airing in February 2005 MTV Base in Africa, thereby reaching the world's last major populated area previously not served by MTV.

In 2006, MTV plans to launch MTV Ukraine, to pursue the emerging music market. In September, 2006 also planned to launch Baltic states as MTV Estonia, MTV Latvia and MTV Lithuania, with MTV Türkiye launching for the Turkish speaking market.

In June 2006, MTV also announced the creation of MTV K, the first music and pop-culture destination for young Korean-Americans. The channel will import the hottest and latest superstars from Korea, artists like BoA, Rain, and Se7en and will introduce new and emerging Korean-American artists making noise of their own. This will provide a chance for Korean and Korean-Americans artists alike to gain U.S. exposure.


The advent of digital satellite and cable has also brought greater diversity including channels such as MTV2, which features the slogan "Where The Music's At." In the U.S., MTV2 initially focused on playing music videos and other music-related programming exclusively; in Europe, MTV2 plays specific genres of music (mainly alternative and rock). Viacom, parent company of the MTV Networks, is also behind VH1, which is aimed at celebrity and popular culture programming; and CMT, which targets the country music market. Robert Bartz is CEO of MTV enterprises. MTV recently broadcast a University-oriented channel mtvU.

MHD — Music: High Definition is a high definition channel that MTV Networks launched on January 16, 2006. Originating from a studio in Vail, Colorado, MHD features programming from all three music-themed channels owned by MTV Networks — MTV, VH1 and CMT. Thusfar, only Verizon's FiOS TV , Comcast, and Cox Cable have agreed to carry the channel. Cox systems carrying MHD as of March 2006 include Atlanta, New Orleans, Tulsa, Oklahoma City and Phoenix with Boston getting MHD through Comcast. In June 2006, Cox began carrying MHD in the Fairfax market. Mitsubishi Electric Digital Televisions ( is the exclusive sponsor of MHD., the website of the channel, has expansion on its broadcasts (including music videos), as well as an abundance of unique content. It has particularly expanded in its podcasts, including MTV News RAW, with interviews various musical artists. MTV Overdrive, a video steaming service supported by ads, also has content on movies, recording artists, and even clips from MTV television programs.

MTV World:

MTV World launched a series of channels for Asian Americans. The first channel was MTV Desi, in July of 2005 dedicated towards South Asian American. Next up was MTV Chi in December of 2005 which catered to Chinese Americans. The third installment is MTV K for Korean Americans which was launched on June 27, 2006. Each of these channels feature music videos and shows from MTV's international affiliates as well as original programming, promos and packaging designed in the U.S.

International divisions

MTV Networks and Viacom have launched numerous native-language MTV-branded music channels to countries worldwide.

These channels include (but are not limited to): MTV Canada, formerly talktv; MTV UK; MTV Ireland; MTV Spain; MTV France; MTV Germany; MTV Europe; MTV Portugal; MTV Adria; MTV Denmark; MTV Finland; MTV Italy; MTV Netherlands; MTV Norway; MTV Poland; MTV Romania; MTV Sweden; MTV Asia; MTV Japan; MTV China; MTV Korea; MTV Philippines; MTV Taiwan/Hong Kong; MTV Pakistan; MTV India; MTV Latin America; MTV Brasil; MTV Australia; MTV New Zealand and MTV Russia.


Racial discrimination

In its early years, MTV was criticized for being discriminatory, since the acts it featured were nearly exclusively white. MTV executives countered by claiming that there were few—if any—promotional videos available from black and other minority acts, although artists such as Diana Ross and The Jacksons had been making music videos before MTV existed.

Some critics from 1981 to 1985 complained that the channel frequently aired videos by Hall & Oates—a white act with Motown and Philly soul influences, and heavy airplay on black radio—but not the black artists with whom they shared the R&B and dance charts.

Shortly thereafter, the network began heavily featuring videos from Michael Jackson's album Thriller, in particular "Billie Jean" and "Thriller", and Prince's album 1999, in particular the videos for the title track and "Little Red Corvette". Later, sister channel VH1 (introduced in 1985) would specialize in heavy rotation of black acts as part of its format.

Subsequently, MTV delved heavily into black musical acts, developing several hip-hop music-themed programs such as Yo! MTV Raps, and got rid of MTV X to make room for MTV Jams, in part because many young African Americans would rather watch BET than MTV. In recent years, MTV has been criticized for playing too much rap and R&B. [citation needed]


Because of its visibility as a promotional tool for the recording industry, MTV has been criticized as overly commercial and accused of denigrating the importance of music in the music industry (replacing it with a purely visual aesthetic); putting equally popular but less image-centric or single-based acts at a distinct disadvantage. As early as 1985, some musicians were criticizing MTV for these reasons, perhaps most famously Dead Kennedys with the song "MTV − Get off the Air" in the album Frankenchrist.

Airtime for music videos

MTV UK has recently been under fire as it no longer airs any daytime music videos, outside of parts of a few shows like Total Request Live and Making the Video, and focuses primarily on MTV produced reality shows such as The Osbournes and Punk'd. Many argue, however, that as MTV runs nine music channels in the UK, it has delegated music videos to its genre channels in a bid to differentiate itself from the competition of the fourteen other music video-oriented channels. Videos are also often played between other shows and at night.

The same criticism has also been made of MTV in the USA, with its death of music videos, and its stronger focus on reality shows such as Road Rules, The Real World, Laguna Beach, and others as well. The primary U.S. MTV channel does occasionally play music videos (albeit rarely) instead of exclusively relegating them to their genre channels.

Critics also claim that bands sell well because they get a lot of exposure on MTV, rather than MTV picking the best bands to promote; and that MTV has too much influence in the music industry. Although it could be argued that MTV is simply giving airtime to the most popular acts in a given country, the counter-argument could also be made that these acts get popular simply because of the exposure that MTV gives them.

Moral influence

There have also been some critics who have said that MTV promotes bad behavior (mainly premarital sex, violence, and recreational drug use) to the youth of America by embracing the behaviors of certain celebrities who are not good role models. Critics have said that MTV was like "pornography for children."[citation needed]

There are also critics of MTV and their reality shows such as NEXT, the game dating show that involves making the daters complete various tasks and games to avoid being "Nexted" on the basis of looks.

The channel also faced criticism in the wake of the Super Bowl XXXVIII half time show — which it had produced. This infamous halftime show featured the exposure of one of Janet Jackson's breasts, which was shown on live television. Afterwards the NFL indicated that MTV would not produce any further Super Bowl halftime shows, or any public event.

Live 8

MTV and VH1 drew heavy criticism for their coverage of Live 8, the multinational concert of musical artists which raised awareness for African debt relief. The broadcast of music was limited, as the network cut to its on-air personalities, celebrity interviews, and commercials in the middle of live acts. VJs even referred to the event as "Live 8 2005" or "Live Aid 8" proving their lack of knowledge for the cause. The epitome of this was the widely reported decision to cut to commercial during Pink Floyd's performance in London, which was bassist Roger Waters' first performance with the rest of the band since 1981. MTV VJ's came onscreen to talk during the first guitar solo in "Comfortably Numb," then cut back for a few seconds before playing a commercial. 1 Because of the criticism the channel received over this, both MTV and VH1 decided to air 6-hours of footage from performers the following weekend, this time without any commercial breaks or VJ interruptions.

Politics and censorship

MTV has also come under criticism for being far too politically correct and sensitive when it came to censorship. This was most prevalent in the eventual decline of the hit show Jackass. The creators of Jackass often felt that MTV's producers did not let the show run its free course due to the excessive restraints under which they put the Jackass team. MTV's influence also affected its famous animated program, Beavis and Butt-Head. In the wake of controversy that followed a child burning down his house after allegedly watching the show, producers moved the show from its original 7 PM time slot to a late-night, 11 PM slot. Also, Beavis was no longer shown flicking a lighter and screaming the word "fire" in future episodes.

MTV has also heavily edited a number of music videos to remove references to drugs, sex, or weapons. Edits include, but are not limited to:

* "45" by Shinedown (it is renamed "Starring Down" and a good portion of the chorus is edited to eliminate gun references)
* "We Are All On Drugs" by Weezer (It is renamed "We Are All In Love" and lyrics are changed from "On Drugs" to "In Love"
* "Hash Pipe" by Weezer (the word "Hash" is obscured, and the vocal has been edited to sound like "Half")
* "Four Kicks" by Kings of Leon has the words "guns" and "switchblade" censored in the chorus.
* Stinkfist by Tool was renamed "Track #1" since the title was considered "too offensive for public consumption"
* One of System Of A Down's first videos, "Sugar" was also one of their most censored videos, as it censored the words "mushroom", "Russian", and "anger", besides the usual censoring of "fuck" in the song.
* "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies" by Panic! At The Disco, censoring any references to God (in the line "I'd chime in with a 'Haven't you people ever heard of closing a goddamn door?!'"). However, they did not censor "sins" in the title, which could be interpreted as another biblical reference, or the word "whore."
* In the video for Coheed and Cambria's single "A Favor House Atlantic," the word "shoot" is obscured in the chorus.
* In James' video for Laid, the lyrics are changed from "She only comes when she's on top" to "she only screams when she's on top."

However, MTV have also left certain words uncensored:

* 50 Cent's video for "Just A Little Bit" had the word "sex" censored, but the word "nigga" was not.

* Melanie C's first solo single 'Goin' Down' came under fire as the word 'bitch' was censored, but not 'whore'. This also applied to her single 'If that were me,' as censorship banned it as it stated "I can't live without my phone, but you don't even have a home."

* The chorus of the song "The Nobodies" by Marilyn Manson was heavily censored. The original chorus "some children died the other day, we fed machines and then we prayed, puked up and down in morbid faith, you should have seen the ratings that day" has the words "children", "died" and "ratings" bleeped out. MTV censored these words because the song is about the columbine shootings.

Gun references have been edited out of MTV videos as early as 1997 after the deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., when they were casualties of the East Coast-West Coast rap war.

Video game industry

Another field in which MTV has dabbled is gaming. MTV was the first channel to show the new Xbox 360. Some gaming purists were angered at the fact that MTV got the first look at the system and not established game medias like G4TV.[citation needed] It has been stated that aspects of the gaming world dislike MTV because of its focus on popular gaming.[citation needed]

Political influence

After so many shots to the network about the content of programs, MTV started airing a plethora of political and economic shows. These shows included: "think MTV," which discusses current political issues such as gay marriage, the 2004 U.S. presidential election, and war in other countries, among other topics. The slogan of the program is Reflect. Decide. Do. MTV aired a popular band's Sum 41 trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo, documenting the conflict there. The group ended up being caught in the midst of an attack outside of the hotel and were subsequently flown out of the country (Rocked: Sum 41 in Congo). In 1992 MTV started a pro-democracy campaign called "Choose Or Lose", to encourage up to 25 million people to register to vote, and hosted a town hall forum for Bill Clinton[citation needed].

Other politically diverse programs include True Life, which documents people's lives and problems, and shows an epilogue of after the show was shot (True Life); MTV News Specials, which centers on very current events in both the music industry and the world; and a lot of other shows based on the current times. It covered the 2004 U.S. Presidential election, airing programs focused on the issues and opinions of young people, including a program where viewers could ask questions of Senator John Kerry on live TV (Sherman). MTV worked with P. Diddy's "Vote or Die" campaign, designed to encourage young people to vote. Allegedly, P. Diddy did not vote in the 2004 election (Vargas).


MTV has a history of cartoons with mature themes, notably Beavis and Butt-head, and its spin-off, Daria. Few of MTV's other cartoons have been renewed for additional seasons, regardless of their reception.

Cartoons produced by MTV include:

* Æon Flux
* Beavis and Butt-head
* The Brothers Grunt
* Cartoon Sushi
* Celebrity Deathmatch
* Clone High
* Daria
* Downtown
* Liquid Television
* The Maxx
* Spy Groove
* Spider-Man: The New Animated Series
* 3 South
* Undergrads

MTV2 created two animated shows in mid-2006

* Where My Dogs At?
* The Adventures of Chico and Guapo

References in popular culture

* The Red Hot Chili Peppers track "Punk Rock Classic", from the breakthrough album Mother's Milk features the lyrics "Put us on MTV, All we really need, Begging on our knees, Please, Please, Please, Please, Please."

* Recently, some bands have complained to MTV about its focus on The Tooth.

* George Michael's "Freedom '90" makes reference to the pressures the network placed on visual image: "I went back home, got a brand new face / For the boys at MTV"

* The declining popularity of MTV was noted as Bart scrawled "I no longer want my MTV" in a Simpsons' season 9 Chalkboard gag.

* In the film A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master, Rodney Eastman's character "Joey" is watching MTV just before he is attacked and murdered by Freddy Krueger.

* Dire Straits' 1985 song "Money for Nothing" — at the start and end of the song, guest singer Sting repeatedly sung the channel's slogan, "I Want My MTV".

* KMFDM named a song off the 1994 Naïve/Hell To Go album "Go to Hell" Fuck MTV mix

* The song "MTV - Get off the Air" by the Dead Kennedys was a protest against the content and style of music that dominated MTV during the '80s.

* Bowling for Soup's "1985," contains the line, "Bring back Springsteen, Madonna, way before Nirvana there was U2 and Blondie, and music still on MTV."

* Lyrics to Manowar's "Blow Your Speakers" include "Wrote a letter to the MTV/What's goin' on now/Don't ya care about me."

* Lyrics to Avril Lavigne's "Sk8er Boi" include "she turns on TV/guess who she sees/skater boy rockin' up MTV."

* Lyrics to Reel Big Fish's "Don't Start A Band" include "And even if you make it all the way to MTV/I don't think you could take it all the bullshit and the greed."

* Lyrics to Beck's "MTV Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack" include "MTV makes me wanna burn flesh!/Having an orgy down in the satellite dish!"

* Cartoon series Megas XLR frequently features the destruction of billboards and other paraphernalia for a group called "PoP TV", whose symbol is clearly based on the MTV Logo. XLR was directed by Chris Prynoski, a former MTV animator whose own show (Downtown) had been cancelled by MTV years ago.

* The opening track on Pantera's "The Great Southern Trendkill" song with the same name include the lyrics, "Buy it at a store, From MTV to on the floor, You look just like a star, It's proof you don't know who you are."

* In the Eminem song "Without Me": "The FCC wont let me be/ or let me be me, so let me see/ They try to shut me down on MTV/ but it feels so empty without me"

* The band Sublime made a song called "Don't Wanna Be No MTV Motherfucker". The lyrics to this song can be found here.

* In Canadian singer Esthero's 2005 song, We R in Need of a Musical Revolution, as an introduction she sings, "I'm so sick and tired of the shit on the radio/And MTV they only play the same thing/No matter where I go I see Ashanti in the video/I want something more."

* In a reference to how some artists cater to MTV's audience, Pepper's 2002 album, Kona Town, featured a song, "B.O.O.T.", with the lyrics, "We're on the road you see/we're not on MTV/But when we get there/we won't shave our hair/or be fags like Creed"

* In the Futurama episode, Bender Should Not Be Allowed On TV, In the MTV building, it reads "MmmmTV"

* In the film School of Rock starring Jack Black, Black's character claims that rock 'n roll was killed by "a little thing called MTV."

* Rapper Ice Cube make a reference to MTV on his song: It Was A Good Day.

* Duran Duran' 1993 song Too Much Information — at the start of the song, lead singer Simon LeBon sung, "Destroyed by MTV. I hate to bite the hand that feeds me".

* The satirical cartoon series South Park depicted MTV several times in its run:
o In the episode "Chef Aid", Cartman tells Chef that he had seen the Alanis Morissette video "Stinky Britches", which is a fictional song created in the series, "on the radio, MTV, everywhere".
o In the episode "Timmy 2000", the MTV announcer describes the network as "the cool, brainwashing, twelve-year-old-and-younger station that hides behind a slick image", and is "so cool, we decide what's cool." MTV News as "the news that is singlehandedly dumbing down our country (which is cool)". Kurt Loder describes himself as "the oldest person in this network by at least 40 years".
o In "Fat Camp", Howard Stern interviews "Tom Green" and "Johnny Knoxville from MTV's Jackass", as he announced.
o In the episode "Scott Tenorman Must Die", Loder and MTV News were once again depicted in a fictionalized interview with alternative rock band Radiohead.
o In a scene in the beginning of the episode "My Future Self n' Me", Stan and his grandfather are seen watching the MTV series The Osbournes.
o The title of the episode "Fat Butt and Pancake Head" is a play on the MTV animated series Beavis and Butt-Head.
* On The Day Today there was a spoof of MTV and more specifically MTV News called Rok TV
* The Dream Theater song Just Let Me Breathe on Falling into Infinity features the lyrics (written here as spelled in the lyric sheet) "A daily dose of eMpTy V will flush your mind right down the drain." The phrase "eMpTy V" is pronounced as "MTV" when sung aloud.
* The band Clutch (band) on their 1995 self titled release mentions MTV in the following line of the song "Escape From The Prison Planet", "And as featured on the MTV, the local high school lets out, And the town becomes anarchy."
* In The Angry Beavers episode "Un-Barry-ble", the episode starts off with a television broadcast of "Empty-V", a pun of MTV.
* Puppet-TV sitcom Dinosaurs created a music video inspired on the catchphrase of one of its most popular characters, Baby Sinclair, "I'm the Baby, You Gotta Love Me". In it, the song itself is preceded by an intro where Baby is watching "DTV", which is, of course, a pun on MTV, going so far as to recreate the iconic "Moon Landing" ID, with a puppet dinosaur playing the astronaut part.
* Cult satirical police sitcom Sledge Hammer! makes a dig at MTV in its season 2 episode, "Sledge, Rattle, 'n' Roll". At a certain point, the titular character rages at a record company executive and starts blaming rock music for all evil things under the sun, at one time pointing out the youth-corrupting influence of "that NBC" (sic), to which Doreau (his partner) remarks: "Hammer, that's MTV"! Interestingly enough, the part of the record exec was played by Davy Jones of The Monkees, of which one of MTV's creators, Michael Nesmith, was also a member.

MTV networks, music television, major television networks