Bringing the Music Back: MTV’s Experiment and Why the Music Video is Still Viable on TV

In an attempt to make the ‘M’ in its name mean something again, MTV announced the debut of AMTV, a six-hour block for music and advertising experimentation, slated to run from 3 to 9 a.m.- hence the name AMTV. From Monday through Thursday, AMTV will feature music videos, news, interviews and performances in hopes to become a little more reminiscent of its former self.

Initially, I balked at the idea. Why would MTV, the brand that is arguably responsible for the birth and importance of the music video, play the medium to which it owes its success, only during grave shift hours when no one would be watching? The answer was obvious: MTV was no longer music television. It had rebranded itself to mean ‘all things cool’ to its audience through severe exploitation of reality TV shows, and the formula seemed to work. Therefore, its allegiance to music had all but dissipated until it canceled TRL earlier this year, and then the relationship between its flagship channel and the music was completely gone.

Obviously, reality television is not solely to blame for music’s disappearance on television. Online video, by way of YouTube and other video sharing sites, including MTV.com, had made watching music videos on television completely obsolete. Why tune into a television program in hopes that it will play a video you’ve been dying to see when you can log on to YouTube and watch it whenever you’d like, as often as you’d like?

So, the disappearance of music on MTV is only a business response to the consumption habits of its core audience, which begs the question: Why bother at all? What then, is the point of AMTV?

I found what I think the answer is from my own online-video consumption habits, and would argue that most “Generation Y’ers” are the same. For a large chunk of MTV’s audience, the computer, through use of the Internet, has almost replaced the television. I’ve heard my teenage cousins say things like, “I’m going home to watch YouTube.” It may sound like a simple statement, but the idea of going home to watch something that is not regularly scheduled programming is quite a different approach to entertainment than what I was doing when I was a kid. For the rest of us, the Internet has not replaced TV – it’s only an addition to our media diet.

My view is that I think MTV caught on to this, and realized that some of its audience might actually want to see music on its channel. Of course MTV2 and other spin-off stations are completely devoted to the music, but those channels are not half as popular and often feel like the ugly step-child of the real thing. Personally, I’m not thrilled about its time slot, but I’m curious about MTV’s new experiment, specifically since AMTV means the reintroduction of “Unplugged.” I don’t know if I’ll really stay up that late or get up that early to watch it, but I guess that’s why MTV calls it an experiment.

Thoughts?