01 Oct 2002
The World According to MTV
Youth must be served, and few people do it on the scale of 54-year-old Bill Roedy
(MBA '79), president of London-based MTV Networks International. According to a
Business Week International cover story (February 18, 2002), MTV is the world's
largest TV brand, with 38 channels reaching more than one billion viewers in 164
countries, earning it membership in that tiny elite of such globally
transcendent brands as Coke and Levi's.
Eighty percent of MTV's global viewership is outside the United States, and
all its channels feature local management and programming. Roedy has schmoozed with a
number of world leaders — most recently, China's Jiang Zemin — in
order to be granted access to their citizens' TV sets. We've had
little resistance once we explain that we're not in the business of exporting
American culture, said Roedy, who added that his favorite music is the
music of whatever country I've just been in.
Music is an irrevocable step toward democracy, Roedy declared. And
noting that the most popular singer in India is from Pakistan, he observed,
Music helps us forget conflict. It can be a vehicle that helps bring people
together (Boston Globe, July 10, 2002).
Meanwhile, back in the U.S.A., Brian Graden (MBA '89), already president of
entertainment at MTV, took on the additional post of president of entertainment for
VH1, another music channel, last May. (Both MTV and VH1 are properties of Viacom.)
Hailed by the New York Times (May 20, 2002) as a cable wunderkind known to have
an uncanny eye for hit programs, Graden is credited with bringing fare such as
South Park and The Osbournes into America's living rooms. With their raw,
anything-goes humor, these shows ultimately pushed the barriers of taste
for all television, the Times declared. So, Western Civilization, whether you
like it or not, you have to respect Brian's authoritah, as they
might say on South Park.
I believe in constantly being open and never thinking you know too
much, said Graden. My job is to find that universal, emotional
connection. Asked what he'll do if his tastes one day mature beyond those
of his youthful target audiences, Graden replied, I'll program the AARP