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MTV Timeline


​August 1981  MTV launched at 12:01 AM with The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" and sparked the moment when 'pictures came and broke your heart.' The first hour featured videos by the Buggles, Pat Benatar, Rod Stewart, The Who, Cliff Richard, The Pretenders, Todd Rundgren, Styx, Split Enz, and .38 Special.

31-Dec-1981  MTV aired the first MTV "New Year's Eve Rock 'N' Roll Ball," live from the Grand Ballroom at the Hotel Diplomat in New York City, which featured performances by Karla deVito, Bow Wow Wow, and David Johansen.

March, 1982 "I Want My MTV" advertising campaign debuted with Pete Townsend, Stevie Nicks, Mick Jagger, Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, The Police and David Bowie.

December, 1983  MTV debuted Michael Jackson’s 14-minute “Thriller" film and music video, the first to combine the world of filmmaking and music.

14-Sep-1984  MTV presented the first “MTV Video Music Awards” from Radio City Music Hall in New York City with performances by Huey Lewis and the News, Rod Stewart, Madonna, Tina Turner, and ZZ Top. The show also featured the iconic image of Madonna in a wedding gown singing "Like a Virgin." The 2011 VMAs will air August 28th live from LA.

January, 1985  MTV was one of the first television networks to air safe sex PSAs. These safe-sex initiatives continue to thrive today under the "Its Your Sex Life" campaign.

5-Jun-1985  MTV aired British sitcom "The Young Ones" which involved four contrasting college roommates. This programming started MTV on a comedy route that would eventually support comedic talents such as Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Ben Stiller and Jon Stewart.

13-Jul-1985  MTV broadcast "Live AID" in the United States, helping to fundraise and raise awareness of famine in Ethiopia.

10-Mar-1986  MTV debuted late night alternative music show, "120 Minutes,” which was widely successful for its ten year run. The show has been reinvented and just relaunched on MTV2 with the original host, Matt Pinfield.

21-Mar-1986  MTV kicked off its first ever "Spring Break" with live coverage from Daytona Beach, Florida.

31-Aug-1987  MTV premiered "Club MTV," a video age dance show hosted by "Downtown" Julie Brown. "Club MTV" is the first program on the network to have a Monday through Friday daily time slot.

7-Dec-1987  MTV launched its first game show, "Remote Control," which challenged contestants' TV knowledge. "Brady Bunch Physics" quickly became a favorite "channel" on the game.

2-Aug-1988  MTV premiered "YO! MTV Raps," a weekly rap music show which featured Fab 5 with Doctor Dre and Ed Lover as hosts.

3-Mar-1989  MTV world premiered Madonna's controversial "Like A Prayer" video.

26-Nov-1989  MTV premiered "MTV Unplugged" with Squeeze, Syd Straw and Elliot Easton. Later the series featured Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, LL Cool J, Tony Bennet and Alanis Morissette among others. Unplugged has been reinvented today as a multiplatform series of specials which most recently featured Lil Wayne.

2-Feb-1992  MTV launched "Choose or Lose" during the 1992 presidential election. The political awareness campaign successfully engaged young people in politics by de-mystifying the political process, encouraging registration, stressing the importance of voting and highlighting the issues of the day.

21-May-1992  MTV brought reality television into the mainstream with the premiere of "The Real World," a reality based soap opera. The series followed three months in the lives of seven young adults who meet for the first time and live in a New York City loft together. "The Real World" just celebrated its 25th season and is produced by Bunim-Murray Productions in association with MTV.

10-Jun-1992  MTV premiered the first ever MTV Movie Awards which was hosted by then SNL funnyman Dennis Miller. Highlights of the evening included Keanu Reeves' reaction to winning the Most Desirable Male award and William Shatner performing the chorus to the nominated Best Songs.

16-Jun-1992  MTV held the first in a series of "Choose Or Lose" forums with then Arkansas Governor and Presidential candidate Bill Clinton. Clinton took candid questions from a group of two hundred 18-24 year-olds who asked him about his positions on the issues that mattered most to them.

8-Mar-1993  MTV debuted "Beavis and Butt-Head," an original animated series starring two suburban misfits. Created by Mike Judge, the show was the first spin-off from MTV's award-winning animated variety series, "Liquid Television," and will be making its return to MTV in late 2011.

25-Oct-1993  MTV premiered The Jon Stewart Show which was the first talk show on MTV. One particularly famous episode featured Marilyn Manson who ended his musical performance with a piggyback ride offstage by Jon Stewart himself.

19-Dec-1993  MTV premiered "The State." Catchphrases from the show entered into mainstream vernacular, such as "I'm outta heeeerrre."

10-Apr-1994  MTV News broadcast extensive coverage of the untimely death of Kurt Cobain and reaction from fans. Later at the 1994 VMAs, MTV presented a tribute to Kurt Cobain, honoring his music and his life.

30-Jun-1994 The Real World: San Francisco premiered. The series was noted for featuring Pedro Zamora, one of the first openly gay HIV/AIDS activists on television.

19-Jul-1994  MTV premiered "Road Rules," its first docu-adventure series about five strangers who travel across the globe, tackling a series of adventures and challenges posed along the way.

12-Aug-1994  MTV devoted the weekend of August 12 - August 14 to the Woodstock '94 Festival live from Saugerties, NY. MTV News' coverage included live excerpts from the concert, backstage interviews with the bands, reports from the audience perspective, updates from various campsites, historical pieces and all the breaking news.

14-Oct-1997  MTV launched "Live From the 10 Spot," the network's first weekly live performance series. The show featured a wide variety of artists such as The Rolling Stones, Dave Matthew's Band and Prodigy.

31-Mar-1998  MTV premiered "True Life," a weekly documentary series which focuses on the lives and concerns of young adults. The first episode, entitled "True Life: Fatal Dose," investigated the rise of heroin use among young people and focused on the small community of Plano, Texas. The Emmy award winning series, "True Life" is entering its 14th year on MTV.

14-Sep-1998  MTV premiered the first episode of TRL with Carson Daly as the host. TRL was one of the first truly interactive television shows, utilizing the synergy of the internet and television to countdown the top music videos of the day.

10-Sep-1999 The 1999 MTV Video Music Awards was MTV’s highest rated show ever (12.9 cvg. Rating P12-34) and was the #1 cable entertainment program in history.

1-Oct-2000  MTV premiered “Jackass,” a weekly comedy show that featured silly pranks and ridiculous stunts performed by total "jackasses." The show was produced by Johnny Knoxville, Jeff Tremaine, and acclaimed director Spike Jonze. The franchise recently celebrated its 10th year and spawned three successful theatrical releases: Jackass , Jackass 2 and most recently, Jackass 3D.

5-Oct-2000  MTV Cribs premiered. Each episode of the show featured tours of the homes, mansions and penthouses of celebrities, musicians, actors, and athletes. A new spin-off of the series titled "Extreme Cribs" just premiered.

10-Jan-2001  MTV launched the pro-social campaign “Fight For Your Rights: Take A Stand Against Discrimination.” In honor of victims of hate crimes, the network went dark by shutting down its airwaves for the first time ever in the channel’s 20 year history, and ran a scroll listing the names of hundreds of victims of various hate crimes across the country. The scroll ran continuously and without commercial interruptions for more than 17 hours straight. As part of the launch, MTV premiered “Anatomy of a Hate Crime.” The film explored and documented the story behind the vicious attack and murder of college student Matthew Shepard.

February 15, 2002  MTV invited then Secretary of State, Colin Powell to answer questions from young people around the world during a global forum. Powell joined a Washington studio audience and connected with remote sites at MTV studios in London; Moscow; New Delhi; Milan, Italy; Cairo, Egypt; and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He was asked questions on issues such as the global war on terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the drug war in Colombia, and the global AIDS crisis.

5-Mar-2002  MTV debuted the first family of Rock-N-Roll: “The Osbournes.” The show followed the real-life drama of the Osbournes, as they dealt with everyday life in southern California. Father/rock star Ozzy, wife/mother/manager Sharon, and two of their three teenage kids Jack and Kelly, wrestled on camera with typical family issues such as school, allowance, moving, pets, tattoos, adolescence, and life on the road.

22-Apr-2002  MTV premiered "MADE" a self-improvement reality television series that featured young adults who wanted to be "made" into their dream personas as dancers, rockers, ladies men. The Emmy Award winning series is in its 11th season.

17-Mar-2003  MTV premiered "Punk'd," the hidden camera/practical joke series that was hosted and produced by Ashton Kutcher. The shows' catch phrase "You got Punk'd" quickly became mainstream vernacular.

4-Mar-2004  MTV premiered "Pimp My Ride," a reality show where contestants and their junk cars are brought in and "pimped" by host Xzibit and a crew of automotive specialists.

28-Sep-2004  MTV premiered television’s first “reality drama” series “Laguna Beach - The Real Orange County.” One of the most popular series on television, “Laguna Beach” explored the lives of eight teenagers who lead glamorous lives in a picturesque seaside town of pristine beaches and multi-million dollar homes.

3-Nov-2004  MTVU, MTV's college network, premiered the first ever Woodie Awards, an award show which recognizes recording artists and bands voted on by college students. Previous winners include Death Cab for Cutie, Gnarls Barkley, NeverShoutNever, Paramore, Matt and Kim and Kings of Leon.

28-Aug-2005 “The 2005 MTV Video Music Awards” went on the road to Miami and were hosted by Diddy at the American Airlines Arena .

15-Sep-2005  MTV premiered the next generation of its popular live performance series, “Unplugged” with Alicia Keys, across its multiple platforms on-air, online, on broadband and more.

31-May-2006  MTV premiered “The Hills, "a spin-off of “Laguna Beach.” “The Hills” picked up where “Laguna Beach” left off, with Lauren Conrad moving to Los Angeles to attend fashion school and attempting a career in the fashion industry.

25-Jun-2007  MTV partnered with VH1 and CMT to produce ReAct Now, a musical special that raised $2.3 million for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

1-Mar-2008 As part of MTVs' ongoing "Choose or Lose" effort to mobilize more than 20 million 18-30 year-olds to vote, MTV broadcast an hour-long special event that brought together presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Barack Obama, as well as eight young veterans for an intimate discussion on the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war.

11-Jun-2009  MTV premiered the ground-breaking documentary "16 & Pregnant." The series, which after four seasons continues to rank #1 in its time period with F12-34, gives viewers an authentic, honest and intimate look inside the lives of teens as they face unexpected pregnancies and become parents at a young age. "16 and Pregnant" has been cited by experts as having an impact on the decline of the teen birth rate, and a study in 2010 by the National Campaign found that 82% of teens who have watched the series think the show helps teens better understand the challenges of teen pregnancy and parenthood, and how to avoid it.

6-Jul-2009  MTV honored Michael Jackson's life and legacy with extensive coverage of his career and music. All MTV music channels around the world broadcast his memorial service live. Additionally, all day on Saturday, August 1st on MTV's 28th birthday, the "M" in MTV stood for "Michael Jackson TV" as the network kicked off a global celebration of his music, reaching more than a half billion households in over 160 countries around the world.

Dec-2009 MTV launched the "A THIN LINE" campaign, a multi-year effort empowering America's youth to identify, respond to, and stop the spread of digital abuse. To date, over a million young people have taken action as a result of the campaign, and in 2011, President Obama recognized MTV's efforts to fight online bullying during the White House Conference on Bullying Prevention.

3-Dec-2009 Jersey Shore premiered -- the show went on to become the #1 show across all television and MTV's highest rated series ever.

8-Dec-2009  MTV premiered "Teen Mom," a spin-off series of MTV original hit "16 and Pregnant." The "Teen Mom" franchise continues to rank as a top original cable series on TV with P12-34, but as cited in The New York Times, the show's "...impact extends far beyond their ratings triumphs." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) announced that the U.S. teen birth rate declined 9 percent in 2010 and is currently at the lowest level ever reporterd. Experts from the National Campaign cite the "Teen Mom" franchise as one of the key factors contributing to this stepp decline. Although "Teen Mom" is currently in its fourth and final season, MTV will continue to document the ups and downs of teen parenthood in "Teen Mom 2" and "Teen Mom 3."

22-Jan-2010  MTV Networks produced and premiered “Hope for Haiti,” an earthquake relief global telethon on ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CNN, BET, The CW, HBO, MTV, VH1 and CMT. The two-hour telethon broadcast from New York City, Los Angeles, and London. The event featured musical performances and celebrity appearances by Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Mary J. Blige, Alicia Keys, Neil Young, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift, Sting, Bono and Jay-Z.

13-Oct-2010 President Obama hosted a youth town hall special called, "A Conversation with President Obama," where he answered a wide range of questions from an audience of 200 young people.

6-Jun-2011  MTV launched the scripted drama "Teen Wolf"—as a part of its foray into scripted programming. The show has subsequently been picked up for a third season, and will feature an episode order double the number of its first and second seasons. At the 2012 Teen Choice Awards, "Teen Wolf" won for "Choice Summer TV Show," and Tyler Posey won "Choice Summer TV Star Male" for his performance on the show.

19-Jul-2011  MTV successfully launched "Awkward" to great critical praise, with The New York Times calling it "...the smartest, freshest, most moving new sitcome of 2011..." The show has been picked up for a third season which will feature 20 episodes, nearly double the number of its first and second seasons. Ashley Rickards received a nomination for a Critics Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, and was also nominated for a Teen Choice Award for her performance. Beau Mirchoff recently won the 2012 Teen Choice Award for "Choice TV Breakout Star" for his role on the show.

1-Aug-2011   MTV Celebrates its 30th birthday and continued evolution.

28-Aug-2011  The "2011 MTV Video Music Awards" scores MTV's biggest audience in the network's history with a record-breaking 12.4 million total viewers. Among the network's target P12-34 audience, the VMAs delivered a 10.8 rating and 8/5 million P12-34 viewers, making it MTV's most-watched telecast of all time in the demo. In additiona, the VMAs became the #1 cable telecast of 2011 with P12-34 and the #1 non-sports cable telecast of 2011 with total viewers.

1-Dec-2011  MTV changed the color of its logo in support of a cause for the first time. The network joined landmarks from around the world - from the Empire State Building to Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa - to become illuminated in the color red in honor of World AIDS Day. By going red across its platforms, MTV helped deliver a global call to action encouraging young people to GYT (Get Yourself Tested) and to help put an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

19-Dec-2011  Building on MTV's 20-year Emmy and Peabody Awards-winning political legacy, the network launched the "Power of 12" campaign which is designed to unleash the exponential power of the Millennial generation in the 2012 elections and beyond. As part of the initiative, MTV is teaming up with a world-class coalition of philanthropic, technology and political accountability partners to launch "Fantasty Election '12," a first-of-its-kind desktop and mobile game that will give young people a new way to hold presidential and congressional candidates accountable, and reward youth for getting involved in Election '12.

12-Nov-2012 A national phenomenon was launched with the series "Catfish: The TV Show." With Nev Shulman and Max Joseph at the helm, America learns that online dating may not always be what it seems. The show is the first to shed light on the potential dangers the modern dating world faces.

9-Aug-2013 The world is shocked when LC (Lauren Conrad) returns to the internet when "The Hills" alternative ending is released for the first time.

25-Aug-2013 The MTV VMAs leaves the world chanting "No Sleep Til Brooklyn" when the year's biggest night in music became the first-ever award show to be broadcast live from Brooklyn's Barclays Center. From Twerkgate 2013, to Katy Perry singing under the Brooklyn Bridge and the long awaited reunion of *NSYNC, the 2013 VMAs garnered a total audience of 10.1 million viewers, a 66 percent increase versus 2012.

2-Oct-2013 After her headline-grabbing VMA performance, chart-topping sales including her first-ever #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for "Wrecking Ball," and helping to usher the word "twerk" into the everyday lexicon, global superstar Miley Cyrus grants MTV viewers unmatched access in the documentary "Miley: The Movement." The intimate, 60-minute film becomes MTV's highest rated documentary in five years and chronicles Cyrus' triumphs and struggles at home, in the studio and on the road, as well as the planning, rehearsals, performance and media frenzy surrounding her 2013 "MTV Video Music Awards" medley with Robin Thicke.

21-Jan-2014 MTV embarks on a first-of-its-kind social experiment on modern love with the new series "Are You the One?" The unique dating series utilizes a rigorous matchmaking process and unique dating algorithm to help 10 women and 10 men find their perfect match.

29-Jan-2014 The premiere of "Miley Cyrus: MTV Unplugged," which featured her highly celebrated duet with none other than Madonna, becomes the highest rated "MTV Unplugged" in the past decade and sets a new digital record as the best performing "Unplugged" episode in the first 24 hours with more than 1.7 million streams.

6-Feb-2015 MTV releases "Miley Cyrus: MTV Unplugged & Uncensored" exclusively through its digital and mobile platforms, as well as through the MTV App for iOS, Android and Xbox, and MTV Artists App on iOS. This marks the first time ever that MTV released an uncensored version of its Grammy® award winning Unplugged series, featuring  raw and uncut performances and an in depth look inside the special, including Miley's previously unaired cover of the Arctic Monkeys song "Why'd You Only Call Me When You're High."

30-Apr-2014 MTV launches its new multi-year "Look Different" public affairs campaign to combat the hidden racial, gender and LGBT inequality in society. 

24-Aug-2014 The 2014 VMAs becomes the first major award show at the newly renovated Forum in Englewood, CA. The show captivates audiences with fierce performances from Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande with Nicki Minaj and Jessie J, and a women-empowering set featuring none other than Beyoncé. MTV also becomes a platform for Miley Cyrus's cause of homelessness creating a much different discussion than she had created the year before.

17-Oct-2014 Laverne Cox partners with MTV's "Look Different" campaign and LOGO for Laverne Cox Presents: The T Word. The documentary explores the individual journeys of seven trans youth ages 12-24 as they overcome challenges such as bullying and anti-transgender violence. The T Word later becomes the first trans documentary to win an Emmy for Outstanding Special Class Special.

16-Dec-2014 MTV's  iconic reality series, "Real World" gets a revamp in its 30th season with a new twist titled "Real World: Skeletons." After the series begins in the traditional way with seven strangers moving into an old nightclub turned fabulous urban loft in Chicago's West Loop, they soon discover they cannot run away from their past mistakes as unresolved issues and abhorrent behavior are pushed to the surface as the 'last person on earth they wanted to see,' comes knocking on their door. As the skeletons move into the loft, the roommates are forced to deal with their past lives while also balancing living with their new roommates, looking for love, or just having fun as young 20-somethings in the heart of Chicago.

19-Jan-2015 #THETALK: For 12 hours on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2015, all programming aired on MTV in black and white for the first time in the network's history as part of #TheTalk. This multiscreen effort encouraged MTV's audience to have candid, confident and "color brave" conversations on race through personal reflections from a range of luminaries including Kendrick Lamar, Common, Penn Badgley, Jordin Sparks, Sen. Rand Paul, Rep. John Lewis, Sen. Cory Booker and more. In addition, the audience was invited to share their own stories using #TheTalk.

23-Mar-2015 The original Teen Mom girls come back to MTV, only this time breaking the fourth wall to pull back the curtain and reveal their relationships with the producers and crew while showing the challenges of raising children on camera. The audience gets a whole new look into the way life in the public eye has shaped Amber, Catelynn, Farah and Maci as parents and people.

30-June-2015 The MTV debut of its hit new slasher series “Scream” scares up big viewership numbers, drawing more than 6.0 million total viewers in live + 3, including 3.1 million viewers in MTV’s core P12-34 audience and hit a high as the most-watched new series of the summer on cable with Millennials. The episode jumped 45% in L+3 and earned a 1.4 rating among P12-34.  It earned a 1.3 L+3 rating among P18-34.  Additionally, the premiere episode of "Scream" has been streamed 506,000 times to date on and the MTV app.

15-July-2015 To bring attention to the topic of privilege, MTV developed White Squad, a fake company offering "white privilege on demand," complete with an infomercial, website, hotline and robust social media presence. Using the power of satire, White Squad helped highlight systemic racial inequality and ultimately drove people to a custom Look Different resource hub where they could learn more about privilege and how to use it to help others. According to AdWeek, "Thought provoking, exceptionally well executed and controversial, MTV's satirical "White Squad" is one of the best social issues campaigns in recent memory."

22-July-2015 MTV and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist/filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas joined forces to present "White People," a groundbreaking documentary that examined race in modern day America from the viewpoint of white Millennials. The documentary quickly generated a massive social conversation, occupying top trending spots on both Twitter and Facebook. A special online hub for "White People" features the full documentary as well as a custom discussion guide for educators and resources for viewers who want to learn more and take action.

30-Aug-2015 The 2015 "MTV Video Music Awards" retained its mantle as the most talked about awards show of the year. From presidential campaign announcements, to electric performances, artist rivalries and a host that kept the world on its toes, the telecast ranked as the #1 award show on cable this year with MTV's core P12-34 demographic and drove enormous activity on social media, now standing as the most Tweeted television program since Nielsen Social began tracking Twitter TV activity.






ZZ Top performs at MTV's July 4th Party assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=973ZZ Top performs at MTV's July 4th Party
Ed Lover and Dr Dre from "Yo! MTV Raps." assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=972Ed Lover and Dr Dre from "Yo! MTV Raps."
The original five MTV VJs (L to R: JJ Jackson, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn, and Alan Hunter assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=971The original five MTV VJs (L to R: JJ Jackson, Nina Blackwood, Mark Goodman, Martha Quinn, and Alan Hunter
Tom Green from "The Tom Green Show" assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=970Tom Green from "The Tom Green Show"
Ashton Kutcher from "Punk'd" assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=969Ashton Kutcher from "Punk'd"
Madonna performing "Like A Virgin" at the 1984 VMAs. assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=968Madonna performing "Like A Virgin" at the 1984 VMAs.
Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses performing at the 1988 VMAs. assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=967Axl Rose of Guns N' Roses performing at the 1988 VMAs.
Tabatha Soren with then presidential candidate Robert Dole for MTV's "Choose or Lose" campaign. assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=966Tabatha Soren with then presidential candidate Robert Dole for MTV's "Choose or Lose" campaign.
Then presidential candidate Bill Clinton at MTV "Choose or Lose" campaign. assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=965Then presidential candidate Bill Clinton at MTV "Choose or Lose" campaign.
The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star," the first music video on MTV. assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=964The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star," the first music video on MTV.
Kurt Cobain performing at MTV "Unplugged." assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=627Kurt Cobain performing at MTV "Unplugged."
Carson Daly on MTV's "TRL." assets/Forms/DispForm.aspx?ID=626Carson Daly on MTV's "TRL."