Today Music Television (MTV) turns 30 years old. It hasn’t been any easy life for the channel, born out of revolution and angst, growing into the teen prom queen that was the envy of the ball, and then descending into it’s current seemingly mid-life crisis and dramatic antics of “real” life.
As with most things, there are a few lessons we can learn from the storied lifespan of MTV thus far:
- Making big promises means taking big risks: MTV promised a revolution and, while some might argue differently, delivered just that when it comes to cable television. That promise came at a significant risk to both investors and on air talent. For that matter MTV may very well have failed had their talent, such as Adam Curry (responsible for MTV.com) and Kurt Loder (responsible for building MTV News), not taken the proverbial bull by the horns and dragged it against the grain. It was a risk to trust their talent in such dramatic ways, and ultimately it paid off for them
- Arrogance of dominance leads to mediocrity: In the 90’s MTV was relatively arrogant about their status in the national culture. This lead to mediocre programming (with one or two true revolutionary for the time ideas) and forgetting that their audience was what made them what they were. We see that same type of arrogance reaping the rewards of reduced budgets and service cuts today for agencies that forgot it is their community that ultimately held them aloft. While I’m all for agency and professional pride, it’s important not to be arrogant about it, especially when it comes to dealing with the members of the community in which we serve
- Never forget the base of your business: One of the sharpest criticisms of MTV is that they no longer play music videos, opting instead for a constant stream of Maury Povilch type programming. They have essentially forgotten the core of their business, and movements in EMS threaten to do the same. At our core, our job is to provide transportation to the sick and injured, which we also need to remember while promoting additional services we want to see but that the public may have no interest in
Unlike most people, I have a certain amount of faith that MTV will turn it around in their 30s. Hopefully when they do, we’ll be able to take some lessons from that as well.
Until then… Happy Birthday MTV… we await the return of the revolution!