It can be argued that MTV began its decline from being a music channel all the way back in the mid-80's, when they began acquiring reruns of various series. It was one thing if it was repeats of The Monkees or the animated Beatles cartoons, since they fit the mission statement. Monty Python's Flying Circus didn't, but MTV acquired it anyway. The Best of Saturday Night Live, in a one hour format instead of 90 minutes, could be excused as long as the musical segments were left intact.
Their first, and until recently, most recognizable, "reality" show, The Real World, marks its 20th anniversary this year, but is MTV beating the drums to talk about it? Not yet, and I'm not really sure if they care. Instead, MTV would rather shove Jersey Shore, Teen Mom (and its attendant, tabloid-ready controversy), & 16 & Pregnant (ditto) down the viewers' collective throats, and banish what few music videos are on their playlist to early morning hours, not caring a whit about long-time viewers who likely have washed their hands of the channel they grew up with.
After all the hype surrounding a series version of the 1985 movie, MTV's Teen Wolf is anything but a comedy, and is geared to attract the "Twilight" crowd. I'm not even sure if it's returning for a second season. The channel has acquired off-network reruns, not only for itself, but also its sister networks, but in most cases, they just don't fit in. Consider the following:
That 70's Show: Until recently, the series aired in a 2-hour block from 5-7 (ET) each afternoon. MTV shares cable rights to the series with ABC Family, but the real reason it's on MTV is to help fulfill the contract corporate parent Viacom signed for the show, which also airs on sister network TeenNick at last check.
And, over on MTV2:
Martin, Living Single, & The Wayans Brothers: All three also air on sister networks BET & Centric. Again, it's about fulfilling a contract.
Saved By The Bell: A recent acquisition. Rights are shared with TBS, which farmed out Bell to its sister network, Cartoon Network, for a brief, and I do mean, brief, run on [adult swim] a ways back that caused some consternation on the internet with folks who already have axes to grind with the administration mismanaging CN.
Boy Meets World: The former ABC series previously had cable runs on Disney Channel & ABC Family, and likely is also airing on TeenNick. MTV2 is advertising that World & Bell will form a early afternoon block weekdays, to further drum home the point.
Earlier today, I was channel surfing, and found Married....With Children airing on VH1 Classic. Yep, another case of fulfilling a contract that was drawn up for another of the Viacom channels, in this case, Spike. Unless it's a music themed episode (i.e. with ex-Herman's Hermits frontman Peter Noone), it doesn't really belong.
While VH1 & VH1 Classic trumpet their Rock & Roll Picture Show package and try to confine it to music-themed movies (i.e. "Purple Rain", "Grease"), MTV & MTV2 specialize in horror movies or teen comedies with rock soundtracks. Meh, whatever.
So what needs to be done? Viacom must be making enough money off MTV Networks to allow the present business model to continue, but by doing so, they've alienated viewers who've supported the channels for years, since before Viacom bought them in the late 80's. The current administration needs to be shown the door. It's either that, or someone has to come along that cares enough about MTV's rich history and is willing to restore said history, such that they'd be willing to relocate Jersey Shore permanently to Spike (a more appropriate place at this juncture), cancel the exploitive Teen Mom and its ilk, and concentrate on restoring the mission statement.
In 1981, Mark Goodman was the first one to utter the phrase, "you'll never look at music the same way again". In 2012, unless things change, you may not want to look at MTV and its sister networks the same way again.