When Did MTV Stop Playing Music Videos?

The music industry has seen a lot of changes in trends over the decades. From the days of listening to our favorite songs on the radio to being able to stream music via different channels, there has been a significant shift in the popularity of various media to promote music.  We will see about when did MTV stop playing music videos and why in this article.

When Did MTV Stop Playing Music Videos?

MTV was a popular channel for music videos in the 80s and 90s. Although opinions vary, it’s widely believed that between the late 90s and early 2000s that MTV stopped playing music videos, opting for reality TV and other shows instead.

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Why MTV Stopped Playing Music Videos

MTV started in 1981 and was widely known as the channel for 24/7 music videos, but by 1986, they had reduced the number of music videos they played.

Although there isn’t an exact point that can be named when MTV stop playing music videos, since it was a gradual process, it is generally agreed that it was anywhere between the late 90s and early 2000s.

There were several contributing factors to this change. Here are the reasons why they did so:

1. Higher Competition – with the rise of cable TV, other channels also offering music videos became available. This increased the competition compared to when viewers had to rely on MTV for the latest music videos. This shift in viewers’ interest saw even less of an audience and brought a need to diversify their content to keep them interested. 

2. Small Audience – Although the channel is remembered fondly by a few, the music video-only content attracted a smaller audience. As other options and new trends in the entertainment industry sprang up, there was a need to make changes to attract and maintain a much larger audience.

3. Financial Benefits – when MTV switched to reality TV by premiering their first TV show called ‘The Real World’, they were able to garner more interest which was much better for business. Despite their popularity during the days of music videos, it is known that they were barely staying afloat financially, so the switch was necessary. 

4. There was a need for fresher and newer content. A single form of content could have only done well for so long, and despite its popularity in its time, interest in other forms of entertainment kept climbing. 

5. When YouTube was created, artists no longer needed to rely on TV channels to broadcast their music. They could quickly release their videos online and get high views. This pushed the relevance of media with solely music content even further behind. 

What Kind of Shows Did MTV Switch To?

MTV went from playing music videos to hosting reality shows, game shows, music awards, and documentaries. Below is a list of some of the shows hosted on MTV:

 1 The Young Ones, a British sitcom that first premiered on June 5, 1985

2. Remote Control, a popular game show, premiered on December 17, 1987

3. The Real World, a highly rated reality TV show, premiered on May 21, 1992

4. Beavis and Butthead, an animated series premiered on March 8, 1993

5. Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, the first real drama series in 2004

Other popular shows and dramas MTV is known for are: 

  • Teen wolf
  • Skins
  • Teen mom
  • Catfish
  • Scream

How to Watch Music Videos on MTV

For those that still crave the good old days of music videos on MTV, there are a lot of options to choose from now.

MTV owns a sister channel, MTV classic, which shows music videos from the 80s to the early 2000s. These music videos belong to all the different genres.

It’s also possible to watch these music videos on YouTube TV since it has acquired different sister channels of MTV

A great option is Apple Music Tv that was launched in 2020, featuring the music video only feature of MTV in its early days. The channel features new music videos, events, and chart countdowns.

Alternatively, you can effortlessly search for specific music videos on YouTube and watch them there. 

Although MTV had long shifted to reality TV and hosting other shows and documentaries, you can still watch music videos on the original channel during the early morning hours, between midnight and 5 a.m.


Despite MTV’s early success, the shift in content was more important in the long run to remain relevant in today’s fast-paced world. With the popularity of various social media streaming channels for music today, a TV channel for music videos only is bound to go under. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Does MTV still play music videos in the morning?

Yes, it does, but it’s usually in the early hours of the morning

Where is the best place to watch old music videos?

Although there are many online channels to choose from, YouTube remains one of the best options to find and watch old music videos easily.

When Did MTV Stop Playing Music Videos?

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