MTV Turns 40! A Look Back on the Channel That Revolutionized Music, TV and Culture

Happy birthday, MTV! Forty years ago today, MTV went live on the air for the first time, intertwining television and music in a way that would revolutionize the entertainment industry and have a profound impact on pop culture. Just like the channel’s iconic opening sequence of a rocket ship taking off, MTV’s popularity would quickly skyrocket, transforming the concept of music and the influence of its superstars in the process.

While there’s no question that MTV changed the world, most are probably unaware of what a long shot it actually was to get the channel off the ground. Check out this special podcast episode that tells the behind-the-scenes and intimate stories of how Music Television came to be from who created and launched it! 

In this nostalgic episode from the “Math & Magic: Stories From The Frontiers of Marketing” podcast, join Bob Pittman (MTV Co-Founder and current Chairman and CEO of iHeartMedia) as he takes you down memory lane to the early days of MTV, with the help of his fellow MTV Co-founders and friends.

Tom Freston_MTV blog
Tom Freston (ONE Board Chair for ONE and Principal for Firefly3) and Bob Pittman (Chairman and CEO for iHeartMedia) discuss how improvisation and innovation paved the way for MTV to become a cultural phenemon.

From how the first MTV logo was designed on some crinkled old paper (and nearly thrown away) to how a tiny record store in Tulsa helped saved the business, to how a terrible cereal inspired one of the most recognizable slogans of all time (“I want my MTV”)—this memorable episode is chock full of exciting, behind-the-scenes stories that fans, marketers and entrepreneurs alike will all want to hear! 

John Sykes_MTV blog
Bob Pittman (Chairman and CEO for iHeartMedia) and John Sykes (iHeartMedia President of Entertainment Enterprises) reminiscence over the early days of creating MTV. 

“MTV was a wonderful ride... from the very beginning, my co-founders and I knew we were doing something that was important to culture, but we had no idea we were going to change culture,” shares Pittman in the episode. “MTV changed TV. It changed music. It changed graphic design. And it certainly changed my life. No matter how old I get and whatever else I do, MTV is still an important chapter in my life. And all of us as co-founders are still a very tight family.”

Judy McGrath_MTV blog
Judy McGrath (former MTV CEO and Amazon Board member) recalls to Bob Pittman (Chairman and CEO for iHeartMedia) why she decided to join the MTV team.

Hear from a notable list of MTV alums, including Judy McGrath (former MTV CEO and Amazon Board member), John Sykes (iHeartMedia President of Entertainment Enterprises), Tom Freston (Board Chair for ONE and Principal for Firefly 3) and others, as they reminisce on the early days of MTV all the way to becoming a mainstay of people’s family rooms. It’s an MTV anniversary celebration you don’t want to miss!

Fred Seibert_MTV blog
Bob Pittman (Chairman and CEO for iHeartMedia) and Fred Seibert (FredFilms Founder and Executive Producer) look back on the creative vision behind MTV's iconic branding.

So, check out this special episode of the “Math & Magic” podcast to learn more about the roots of this cultural phenomenon. And once again, happy 40th birthday MTV!