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 channel.”


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