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MTV’s Identity Shift

For decades, MTV carried the anti-establishment banner of Generation-X. From the moment that iconic astronaut planted music television’s logo-bearing flag on the surface of the moon, it was apparent that we were entering a new period in popular culture. Proudly trumpeting in the post-Reaganomics rebellion of the ‘90’s; free of shark-jumping Fonzi’s and Tom Selleck’s mustache, MTV provided a fresh outlet for a nation of youth over-inundated with 80’s camp. Its current incarnation, however, more closely resembles a reality television petri dish comprised of spray tans and barroom brawls and lacking the music that defined the channel since its inception. Is MTV’s abandonment of the platform that carved its unique societal-niche a blatant mistake or a shrewd organizational shift to accommodate the changing of the times?

Regardless of MTV’s previous reputation of non-conformity, it is, and always has been, a business first. The top priority for businesses: relevancy and a steady revenue stream; and unfortunately for nostalgia-addicted individuals like myself, the ‘90s are gone and the channel has adapted itself accordingly. The regrettable side-effect of this format change is an absurdity-overload in the form of matchmaker dating shows and the Jersey Boardwalk; but I digress.

With the popularity of streaming video sites such as YouTube and Vimeo, and a lifetime’s worth of music available online, you can hypothesize that the execs at Viacom were backed into a corner in regards to MTV. To wax nostalgic (once more), in the past, your only options for discovering new artists were the radio and music television. This all changed with the Internet-revolution, and MTV was forced to change with it, or face declining ratings and profits.

From a PR perspective, it was the right-call for the folks at MTV to modify their business-model to match their audience, even at the expense of their initial platform. Their original viewership that grew up on Nirvana’s Nevermind and Lollapalooza has entered the professional-sector, and whether it’s a positive or negative, MTV’s target market relishes programming that hinges on ‘reality.’ At the end of the day, the network is still flourishing and remains a profitable venture.

Remaining relevant and viable requires keeping an ear to the ground in regards to current trends, and as MTV has shown, adjusting your message to fit your audience as it stands is a vital aspect when striving for career longevity and success.

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations

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