Can MTV Put Back the "Music" in Music Television?

Friday, August 26, 2022

On most days when you turn to MTV, it's usually Ridiculousness filling up the airwaves. And I get it, Ridiculousness can be fun, but not for all hours of the day. And it really makes you think of MTV's current programming slate compared to it slates of days gone by. There is the MTV Classic channel, which plays a lot of old music videos, but it’s not been a part of MTV’s programming really since TRL ended in 2008. I know television ratings aren't what they used to be, for every network, so I get the cost benefit analysis for all of the Ridiculousness. And especially in the seemingly unstable age of streaming. But, there seems to be no effort to do any sort of music programming. And I am saying this as a casual observer of the network who really only watches MTV for The Challenge.

But there’s so many interesting things happening with music right now, they could go back to being Music Television.

Since there is no longer a monoculture where everyone is watching the same stuff, you don't have to go for juggernaut ratings, and you can get more creative with what you put on the air. Especially with Paramount+ as their parent company’s streaming service as a place where their programming can be made available. TRL doesn't have to be hitting the same numbers it was when it was the show. It can be retooled. It could be prerecorded, with maybe live specials if a major artist wants to do a big promotion for their video or album. Something to take us through the week in music. With this, you could bring back the VJ. Program music videos and performances of now and yesterday, and have the VJs guide us through it all. It would also make the Video Music Awards kind of matter again, too. It feels better to hold them when MTV is actually airing music videos on the network. And make MTV Unplugged a bit more of a regular event. NPR's Tiny Desk Concert gets a lot of views so there is an audience for an artist doing an acoustic performance. 

Bring back MTV News. There could also be roundtables with music critics and music writers. Whether it be a round up of music of the week, or talking about what's happening in music at the moment. A major bit of programming MTV News could do is festival coverage. With the amount of festivals that are being put on right now, that's an opportunity to send out reporters to talk to artists, festival goers, report on the highs and lows of the festival on the ground. I don't think we're in danger of another Woodstock 99 happening, especially after the HBO doc and the Netflix docuseries about it, so it would be safe to have your crews there. 

Another thing they can do is to redo all those old VH1 countdowns. Top 100 albums, artists, women in music, music videos, break it down by genre. As many topics as you can think of. Even bring back the I Love the Decade franchise. Do you know how many days I spent glued watching those when they would rerun them on weekends. Again, if you want to break up the Ridiculousness reruns, make of these and you can really diversify the days. But, really, doing some programming about music history and pop culture can be very instrumental. Lots of people love music docs, so produce or squire docs on artists, eras, events, and keep all that music alive for people. 

The point is, we're in a different age where I think MTV can shift back to their original mission statement. Music Television. That's not to say you have to abandon all their reality stuff. Keep The Challenge going for as long as it's good. But there could be an appetite for music television again.

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