Did the Internet Kill The Video Star: Is the TV Music Video Dead?

With the words “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll,” so began MTV in August 1981.  Moments later, the video for Video Killed the Radio Star aired.  It was the first music video shown on Music Television (MTV).  Now, more than 25 years later, I wonder, as the song goes, was there a “day the music died”…. can someone tell me, has the internet “Killed the Video Star?”

mtv When MTV first hit the airwaves in 1981 it was revolutionary, edgy…. borderline counter culture… It was the dream alchemy to capture the attention of its twelve to twenty-five year old target audience. 

For its first 6 years, using a format somewhat adapted from Top 40 radio, MTV carried almost exclusively music videos – most a similar kind of somewhat crude, rough around the edges, under-produced material to that which now litter the pages of Internet video networks.  The grainy concert clips, the saucy, crude displays, they were the antithesis of the rest of broadcast TV.  That was part of why they were adored and appreciated: They were new, they were different, and they were bold.

Eventually, as the MTV brand grew and globalized, siblings were brought to the family in the form of new channels and new kinds of programming.  Like an older child, slightly neglected because of the needs of its baby brothers and sisters, the music video moved to a place of less prominence. 

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The Recipes of Pixar

In the animation world, Pixar has been king for the past decade.  After spinning off from  Lucas Film in 1985, being bought by Steve Jobs, and eventually going public, the company found its footing in the mid 90’s and became a dominant player in CGI animation.  Pixar’s string of hits started with Toy Story in 1995, and has followed with commercial and licensing successes for nearly all its major releases since:  A Bugs Life in 1998, Toy Story 2 in 1999, Monsters Inc in 2001, Finding Nemo in 2003, The Incredibles in 2004, Cars in 2006 and more on the way.

On January 31st, Ed Catmull co-founder and former President of Pixar, one time CTO of Pixar and now head of the joint Pixar Disney Animation Studio (following Disney’s $7.4b acquisition of Pixar last year) spoke at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business Entrepreneurship Conference.  


In his presentation, Dr. Catmull spoke about process and culture at Pixar; Effectively, things that are part of the company’s recipe for success that have been learned with trial and error.  Many of these points, along with others made in an interview with some students (found here) translate across business markets and seem smart managerial practice. 

While he gave the speech some time ago now, there are 4 management lessons I took from his speech and interview which  I’ve been wanting to put to paper:

Look for what’s wrong, not just what’s right:

Early on, Pixar created a structure with programmers, animators and producers that differed from standard practice in the industry.  The thought was a more equal peer system coupled with an “open door” “easy access” process would make for a healthy culture.  Turned out, there were problems lurking and they were almost missed. 

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