MTV turned 30 recently. Let’s face it, turning the big 3-0 is pretty much the end of youth, but there is no other TV network as synonymous with youth culture as MTV. It’s an institution that has remained relevant to fickle teens and college students for three decades. I can’t think of another that has, year in and year out, maintained that position…except maybe jeans and t-shirts.
MTV has always pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable, sometimes failing, but often spawning major trends: animation for 20-somethings (Liquid Television was a precursor to Adult Swim), reality TV (‘nuf said), news for young people (even Jon Stewart rose to fame on the network)…the list goes on and on.
There are those who lament that the network isn’t what it was 30 years ago, but, frankly, it shouldn’t be what it was then because young people today aren’t the same as young people decades ago. The changing media landscape forced MTV to “evolve and figure out” its new role.
That means, in part, that MTV doesn’t show many music videos any more (though its sister networks do) because times have changed. There are more than enough ways for people to find music videos, as Kurt Loder points out, and MTV specializes in giving viewers what they can’t get anywhere else.
These days, that includes a mix of reality programming and a revival of some old hits. For the nostalgic viewers, the network is bringing back “Beavis and Butthead,” which has the potential to be just as relevant today as it was back in the 90s because the show comes with a new twist. Instead of commenting on videos, the pair makes fun of everything on the network, from music to reality shows. Their sardonic wit is a perfect match for “Jersey Shore.” The network has also re-imagined the 80s classic “Teen Wolf” and turned it into a sci-fi fantasy that both guys and girls love (compared to the mostly-female fans of the “Twilight Saga,” “Vampire Diaries,” and others).
What’s more, the network continues to push the boundaries of media. Rather than celebrate another anniversary by reliving its past this week, MTV announced the formation of MTVX, a cross-platform video unit that will create video content that can live “anywhere and everywhere” and will “pioneer new narrative forms.” Because it’s not music that MTV does best; it’s developing new forms of media that resonate with young viewers. It’s for this reason the network will continue to be relevant until its next major milestone.