Watch: MTV Aired Its First Broadcast 30 Years Ago Today


At the stroke of midnight 30 years ago today — August 1, 1981 — MTV, known as Music Television, aired its first broadcast and its first music video for a song called Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles. At that moment, history was made and the face of pop culture was changed forever. Today, 30 years later, MTV (no longer referred to as “Music Television“) is completely unrecognizable as the channel it was when it debuted … but it’s influence on the modern world can still be felt (if, at the very least, in other ways). Click below to watch the first minutes of MTV when it debuted 30 years ago and reminisce about what one was … and remember how mothereffing cool MTV used to be.

MTV launched on August 1st, 1981 at 12:01 a.m. The first images broadcast were the launch of the Apollo 11, followed by a video for the Buggles song “Video Killed The Radio Star.” The network has gone through countless permutations since then, but this weekend VH1 Classic will commemorate MTV’s founding with a three-day marathon of footage from the 1980s, including a re-broadcast of the network’s first hour … In the earliest days, MTV was only available in a limited number of cities. When they launched, the VJs had to travel to New Jersey to watch it because even New York cable companies didn’t offer it. “Part of the job was to hang out with cable operators and convince them to pick up MTV,” Goodman says. “Within six months we started getting these stories back from small towns in the Midwest and in the South where people were going into record stores and asking for the Buggles, who had been off the shelves for about three years by 1981. I also remember doing an appearance in Cheyenne, Wyoming at a record store where thousands of people showed up. I said, ‘What’s going on?’ They said, ‘You.’ I was completely blown away, and I said, ‘Okay, it’s working.'” It took a little while for all the major artists to begin making videos. “I think we only had 300 videos at first,” Goodman says. “Which is why you saw Andrew Gold every few hours. We also had lots of Rod Stewart, and even acts like Charlie Daniels. One of the early success stories was Duran Duran. We started playing ‘Planet Earth’ early on and it got them wide exposure. We started to hear about British bands coming to the States and being shocked by how many people showed up.” The new platform served as a tremendous boost to the record industry. “We sort of propped it up when there was kind of an indulgence in the industry,” says Goodman. “We were coming off Saturday Night Fever in 1979 and the industry had this gigantic bubble and then things got awful quiet. We came along just in time and revitalized things, or at least opened people up to more music.”

Those of us who remember fondly the glory days of Music Television are very lucky … because young kids today have NO idea what an amazing impact the music video channel had on us … on the world. If I were to compare it to a phenomenon today, I’d say that the impact and cool factor of MTV in its prime is arguably comparable to the impact of Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler and You Tube altogether today. It is such a shame that MTV no longer exists in the format that it once did … but today, on it’s 30th anniversary, we can look back, remember and LOVE what once was. Happy Birthday, MTV. I will always love you, no question, but I deffo miss your amazing glory days.

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  • Cupcake

    Well said Trent. I miss the videos. Wish they would go back to their roots…but at least I was able to enjoy it while it lasted.

  • Jacqui

    I want my MTV! Great now, I must have a vintage MTV shirt.

  • Carrie

    Umm today is my parent’s 30th wedding anniversary. HOW DID I NEVER KNOW THIS HAPPENED ON THE SAME DAY???

    • @Carrie — That is so cool. Happy Anni to them :D

  • PixiesBassline

    Damn, I miss what MTV was! Unfortunately, I didn’t get to enjoy the last few years that it was still half-good because I lived in a city that banned it. (A few peoples’ religious beliefs ruined it for the rest of us.)
    It’s too bad that MTV won’t just show videos like it used to.

  • Lynne

    MTV isn’t even celebrating it’s own anniversary! (VH1 Classic doesn’t count.) This is why I don’t understand why the VMA’s are still around… :\

  • Kelly

    I miss MTV’s glory days too.

  • Dezden

    I’ve spent the last 13 years (and occasionally before that) watching entirely too much MTV!!! It’s crazy and there’s really no music… but I love that daggon channel!!!

  • Sanchez

    I haven’t watched it since high school. I gave up on it just before they started TRL. This made me too nostalgic!

  • rOXy

    Haha @ Rod Stewart. What a goofball. That guy could move, though, constant motion and covered a lot of floor. It was good to see the VJ’s again. Their stars faded too soon. :(

  • miriam

    well said Trent!! oh how i miss the good ole days of actual music videos…i will admit that i do watch some of the train wrecks that they call shows but would watch a lot more if they would play music videos again! MTV was my childhood!!

  • Elise

    I miss MTV too. They must be making money with their new programing, even though it’s really distasteful and bad and no one likes it.Yes, it used to be good, Andy Warhol used to be involved.

  • pufinstuf

    I want my MTV! And I have the buttons that say that to prove it!

  • Zanne

    I remember celebrating the 10th anniversary of MTV by purchasing a stars and stripes MTV shirt. I was 13 so of course I thought I was the epitome of cool… ;)