We Used To Watch This Thing Called MTV



Its famous logo can always be spotted in almost any country. Whether you used to watch it, still watch it, or can’t stand it, MTV has made a huge impact in both the TV and music industry. MTV is known for the original reality TV, music videos, creating some of the biggest names in the music industry, and not shying away from discussing important, trendy issues like gay rights, AIDS, alcoholism and more. Over the years MTV has drifted away from this old image and has attempted to reinvent itself. The old image of MTV used to be considered cool, but has lost its lifestyle culture of “cool” as MTV has changed its image to appeal to a different demographic.


When MTV first originated they had little money to work with. They decided with that money they were going to pay a group of people to live their lives, they were going to film it and hope it would be entertaining. This is where reality TV was created. Shows like My Super Sweet 16 (as seen above), Pimp my Ride, Next, and Parental Control were some of MTV’s “pseudo-reality” TV shows, that were considered cool to watch when I was younger. I distinctly remember telling my friends that I still watched Disney Channel, to which they told me that was for little kids. “Older kids,” who now looking back weren’t really older (they were in middle school), were watching MTV. MTV had a mature, cool reputation amongst teenagers. Here is where we loved to watch TV shows that had curses in them, heard the latest music, watched cool music videos, and shows where teens made it okay to disobey their parents. As times have changed, MTV has attempted to rebrand itself. There are no more pseudo-reality TV shows, no more music videos, and less shows aimed to please their younger target audience. Now more serious, emotional shows like Teen Mom, Young & Married, The Shannara Chronicles, and Scream have replaced the shows we once watched. MTV is trying to give itself a more mature, sophisticated image and aim for an older demographic.

For years, MTV’s main demographic was all genders ages 12 to 34, which is a pretty large demographic. Since then, MTV has attempted to narrow their demographic to ages 18 to 34. According to International Business Times, in the first quarter of 2015 ratings for MTV’s target demographic dropped 29%. It has continued to lose ratings in its target demographic for 8 out of the last 9 consecutive quarters. MTV officials believe this has to do with a lack of interest from the younger generation, as well as watching less live TV and using more mobile devices. MTV just has not caught up, and is having trouble staying caught up with the latest technologies. “MTV has been the voice of a generation- one that was connected through music and celebrities, but today young people are connected through their devices, which is driving down ratings across cable and broadcast. Given MTV’s core demo, it’s probably hitting them hardest,” says Barry Lowenthal, president of media-buying agency, Media Kitchen. MTV is also struggling to stay relevant to its remaining demographic as it continually tries to reinvent itself. “The network has been planning its next shift- a foray into larger- budget scripted shows more suited to audiences that gravitate toward high-quality series,” says the International Business Times.

In the article, The Nickelodeon Brand: Buying and Selling the Audience, the author describes how the Nickelodeon brand has created a respected name for itself among its demographic. “For Nickelodeon, this experience is about kids’ empowerment and a specific kind of citizenship, where the network claims to “respect” kids by creating a network just for them.” This is one of the reasons why the Nickelodeon brand has been, and continues to be successful throughout the years. Similarly, MTV use to have a respect comparable to that of Nickelodeon, with their own demographic. As MTV tries to rebrand themselves, they have somewhat dropped the respect they once had for the kids in their demographic. And in return, these kids have then lost some of this respect for MTV. Essentially, it was a loss of brand loyalty.

The MTV brand has been through slumps before, as they have attempted to rebrand themselves on numerous occasions. “There’s a cultural gap there: If shows like Shannara succeed, how will they redefine the values of a channel that has always been known for its teen spirit?” says Billboard. These are some of the issues that MTV will have to address while taking their audience, ratings, reputation, and image into consideration. My friends and I occasionally go online and find episodes of those cheesy reality shows that we still find entertaining. As for the younger generation, I feel bad that they missed out on what I feel was an important aspect of my childhood.


Banet-Weiser, S. (2007). The Nickelodeon brand: Buying and selling the audience.

Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship.

Zara, Christopher. “MTV Ratings Decline Raises Relevance Questions As Young People Cut Cable Cord For Devices.” International Business Times. IBT, 15 Apr. 2015. Web.

Levine, Robert. “How MTV Is Trying to Reinvent Itself to Combat Sinking Ratings and Disinterested Teens.” Billboard. Billboard, 17 July 2015. Web.

Baker, Rosie. “MTV Shifts Ad Strategy – Marketing Week.” Marketing Week. Marketing Week, 17 Oct. 2014. Web.

Ben Mathis-Lilley, Adam Sternbergh, Jada Yuan & Josh Eells Published. “I Want My A.D.D.” NYMag.com. New York Magazine, 7 Aug. 2006. Web.


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