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In recent years, MTV had struggled with the secular decline of music-related cable media.Its ratings had been said to be failing systematically, as younger viewers increasingly shift towards digital media, with yearly ratings drops as high as 29%; thus there was doubt of the lasting relevance of MTV towards young audiences.MTV (originally an initialism of Music Television) is an American cable and satellite television channel owned by Viacom Media Networks (a division of Viacom) and headquartered in New York City.
, MTV launched with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll," spoken by John Lack and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (which took place earlier that year) and of the launch of Apollo 11.
Pittman had test-driven the music format by producing and hosting a 15-minute show, Album Tracks, on New York City television station WNBC-TV in the late 1970s.
Pittman's boss Warner-Amex executive vice president John Lack had shepherded Pop Clips, a television series created by former Monkee-turned solo artist Michael Nesmith, whose attention had turned to the music video format in the late 1970s.
In his book The Mason Williams FCC Rapport, author Mason Williams states that he pitched an idea to CBS for a television program that featured "video-radio", where disc jockeys would play avant-garde art pieces set to music.
CBS rejected the idea, but Williams premiered his own musical composition "Classical Gas" on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where he was head writer.