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The inspiration for Pop Clips came from a similar program on New Zealand's TVNZ network named Radio with Pictures, which premiered in 1976.

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.

Those words were immediately followed by the original MTV theme song, a crunching rock tune composed by Jonathan Elias and John Petersen, playing over the American flag changed to show MTV's logo changing into various textures and designs.

MTV producers Alan Goodman and Fred Seibert used this public domain footage as a concept; Seibert said that they had originally planned to use Neil Armstrong's "One small step" quote, but lawyers said that Armstrong owned his name and likeness and that he had refused, so the quote was replaced with a beeping sound.

The original slogans of the channel were "You'll never look at music the same way again", and "On cable.

In stereo." MTV's earliest format was modeled after AOR (album-oriented rock) radio; MTV would transition to mimic a full Top 40 station in 1984.

In 1977, Warner Cable a division of Warner Communications and the precursor of Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment launched the first two-way interactive cable television system named QUBE in Columbus, Ohio. One of these specialized channels was Sight on Sound, a music channel that featured concert footage and music-oriented television programs.

With the interactive QUBE service, viewers could vote for their favorite songs and artists.

The network received criticism towards this change of focus, both by certain segments of its audience and musicians.

MTV's influence on its audience, including issues involving censorship and social activism, has also been a subject of debate for several years.

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.