MTV2 was launched as M2 in 1995 as a response to a programming department at MTV that wanted to use it as a tool to play purely music videos, allowing mother-station MTV to focus more on it's show-orientated programming. What ensued was a free-form blitz of the entire video catalog of the MTV library. Because there was no specific format when it began, M2 became known for playing very obscure videos along with the more mainstream offerings. When this author watched M2 for the first time in '95, I was surprised to see a Run DMC video and a Bauhaus video back to back!
The apparent disorganization that made M2 so great didn't last long. As DSS and other Satellite systems became more prevalent in the home, M2 received more exposure. In an attempt to "please everyone" (a fault that MTV has been saddled with for many years, prompting such maneuvers as the cancellation of Headbanger's Ball) M2 was re-christened "MTV2" in early 2000. As a marketing ploy designed to exploit its expansive playlist, The entire first three to four months of the year were dedicated to a project named MTV2 A to Z, a very encyclopedic (read: long and bland) display of every video in the MTV library. This prompted a lot of people to distance themselves from the new "MTV2", fearing that the onslaught of Rod Stewart and Heart videos would, in effect, never end.
The project did end, however. The "new-and-improved" format was a 12-hour repeating one, showcasing genres of music in more categorized and segregated segments (an hour for rock, an hour for soul, an hour for requests, etc.). Gone were the lengths of time where you could see a Outkast video right after a Pearl Jam one.
Under constant fire from viewers who do not have access to MTV2 and were tired of MTV apparently never playing music videos itself, MTV decided to take measures to keep viewers. On January 1 2001, the mother-station adopted some of the shows from MTV2, and now plays more videos than it has in many years. However, MTV2 remains, and is becoming increasingly more available to cable subscribers.
MTV2 started out as something truly wonderful, but was eventually hindered by MTV's desire to make it "everything for everyone". While MTV2 still does give a good deal of airplay and exposure to bands that FM radio will not even touch (like Radiohead and At The Drive In), its playlist is becoming smaller and smaller. Will MTV2 succumb to the temptations of its parent station and begin playing half-hearted game shows and "Reality Programming?" Only time and ratings will tell. Tune in and decide for yourself. Your VJs are Chris Booker and Jancee Dunn (who was an accomplished freelance writer before joining as a hostess last year).