From QUBE to MTV: The Evolution of Music Television

By Samuel Phineas Upham

The early concept of MTV was also one of the earliest forms of interactive television. It was called QUBE, and it was an interactive cable system that was meant to function like a two way. Warner Cable launched QUBE in Columbus, Ohio in 1977.

One of the more popular channels among QUBE’s specialty programming was a channel called “Sight on Sound.” This channel featured music videos, concert footage and other news and talk programs focused on the music scene. Using the service, users could use vote on their favorite videos and artists almost like some of the SMS services television uses today.

Robert W. Pittman was the man responsible for this format of programming, and he went on to become CEO at MTV Networks when it was formally established in the early 80s.

Younger readers will most certainly remember the iconic montage of MTV logos, one of the most famous pictures featuring an astronaut from the Apollo 11 moon expedition. This was a nod, of sorts, to the year MTV was launched. On August 1, 1981 at midnight Eastern, MTV launched over a video of the Apollo 11 launch. The words “Ladies and gentleman, rock and roll” were spoken in voice over and followed by the official MTV theme.

The first video aired by the station officially was “Video Killed the Radio Star,” by The Buggles. It was followed up by the totally rockin’ “You Better Run” by Pat Benatar. Early MTV was very rag tag. Content had to be fed by VCR, so it was common during those early years for the screen to go black as a tape was replaced.

Samuel Phineas Uphamis an investor from NYC and SF. You may contact Phin on his Samual Phineas Upham website or Linkedin page.

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