The MTV Generation

The History of MTV

The seeds for MTV were planted in 1977, when Warner Cable launched QUBE, the first two-way interactive cable television system, in Columbus, Ohio. QUBE offered several specialized channels, including Sight on Sound, a channel that featured concert footage in addition to music programs that enabled viewers to vote for their favorite songs and artists.

Robert Pittman, who would later become president and CEO of MTV Networks, created the initial format of MTV, which made its debut on August 1, 1981, at 12:01 a.m.

“Ladies and gentlemen, rock ‘n’ roll,” said John Lack, the original chief operating officer of MTV, as footage from the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia and of the Apollo 11 launch aired. Photos of the Apollo 11 landing were displayed, the American flag being replaced with a color-changing flag featuring the MTV logo.

Although it was a defining moment for the network, only a few thousand people in New Jersey witnessed the original broadcast, which appropriately featured The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” as its first music video.