MTV Classic
MTV Classic logo
CountryUnited States
NetworkMTV (2016–present)
VH1 (1998–2016)
HeadquartersNew York City, New York, United States
Picture format480i (SDTV)
OwnerParamount Global
ParentMTV Entertainment Group
Sister channels
LaunchedAugust 1, 1998; 25 years ago (1998-08-01)
Former names
  • VH1 Smooth (1998–1999)
  • VH1 Classic Rock (1999–2000)
  • VH1 Classic (2000–2016)
Streaming media
Affiliated Streaming ServiceParamount+
Internet Protocol televisionPhilo, FuboTV, AT&T TV, YouTube TV, Vidgo TV, Hulu + Live TV

MTV Classic (formerly VH1 Smooth, VH1 Classic Rock, and VH1 Classic) is an American pay television network owned by Paramount Media Networks. It was originally launched in 1998 as "VH1 Smooth", an adult contemporary and smooth jazz channel. It was relaunched as "VH1 Classic Rock" in 1999 (later renamed "VH1 Classic" until 2016), with an emphasis on classic rock. On August 1, 2016, in honor of MTV's 35th anniversary, the channel was rebranded as "MTV Classic", and now exclusively displays music videos from all genres from the 1980s to the early 2000s.


1998–1999: VH1 Smooth

VH1 Smooth launched on August 1, 1998 as a part of the "Suite" digital package, delaying the initial launch date of July 31, 1998.[1][2] The channel that focused on smooth jazz, new age, and adult contemporary music.[1][3] The first music video to play on the channel was a cover of "Makin' Whoopee" by Branford Marsalis.[4]

1999–2016: VH1 Classic

VH1 Classic
VH1 Classic

Relaunched on August 1, 1999 as VH1 Classic Rock, the channel primarily featured a mainstream rock/adult hits-formatted mix of music videos and concert footage from the 1960s to the 1980s, though it originally included a wider range of genres and time periods.[5] The channel name was quickly changed to VH1 Classic in 2000.

The network played only music videos upon launch, but quickly expanded to a varied line-up of music-themed programs. This included themed music video compilation blocks (with categories such as Heavy Metal music, or popular music of the 1980s), full-length concerts, music documentaries such as the Classic Albums and Behind the Music series, music-oriented films (such as Prince's Purple Rain and The Blues Brothers), and an original talk show, That Metal Show.[6] It also re-broadcast programs first aired on the main VH1, including Pop-Up Video and I Love the '80s.

From January 28 until February 15, 2015, VH1 Classic aired a 19-day marathon of NBC's Saturday Night Live in celebration of the series' 40th anniversary.[7][8] As a result, the network broke a previous record for the longest continuous marathon in television history set by FXX's twelve-day marathon of The Simpsons.[9]

2016–present: MTV Classic

In July 2016, Viacom announced that on August 1, the 35th anniversary of the original MTV's launch, the network would rebrand as MTV Classic. The channel's programming continues to focus on classic music videos and programming (including notable episodes of MTV Unplugged and Storytellers), but skews more towards from the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. The rebranded network schedule also included reruns of past MTV original series such as the 2011 Beavis and Butt-head revival and Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.[10] The network's relaunch took place at 6:00 a.m. ET with a rebroadcast of MTV's first hour on the air, which was also simulcast on MTV and online via Facebook live streaming, branded as "MTV Hour One" (the channel, as VH1 Classic, had recently aired it to mark the network's 30th anniversary in 2011).[11][12] Several VH1 Classic programs were retained in the existing schedule, albeit in late night hours.

Three days leading up to December 30, 2016, MTV Classic aired 24-hour block "Decade-a-thons" consisting of music videos from the 1980s leading up to the 2000s.[13] Afterwards, MTV Classic unveiled a new automated all-music video schedule, with all of the older MTV and VH1 Classic series content removed.[10] Since then, the only deviation from the automation has been "roadblock" simulcasts of the annual MTV Video Music Awards and MTV Movie & TV Awards to remove any competition from other Paramount networks, as well occasional marathons of older MTV shows to promote new series or season launches (as was done with The Hills to promote The Hills: New Beginnings),

As of the end of the year 2016, the channel was the least-watched English-language channel on most American subscription providers, averaging only 30–35,000 viewers on an average night in primetime (a decline of nearly a third from the already-low numbers VH1 Classic had netted in 2015), which was likely a factor in the network quickly abandoning their new format after five months.[14][15] As of the end of May 2017, its numbers have slipped even further to an average of 14,000 viewers per night, only ahead of the moribund Esquire Network and beIN Sports, which at that time of the year is in its non-prime sports season.[16] Even those low numbers were halved by the end of July 2017, as that month's ratings showed it averaging 7,000 viewers per night, ahead of only the beIN networks.[17] If not for the addition of the seven Entertainment Studios Networks to Nielsen monitoring at the end of 2017, alongside a decline in beIN Sports's ratings, it would have been the lowest rated English-language network in 2017 with a 14,000 viewer/night average.[18] Since then, it has steadily remained the fourth-to-last ranked network, behind beIN Sports and ESN's Comedy.TV and its five-network cumulative "ESN Lifestyles" entry for the remainder of its networks.[19][20]

Occasionally, the channel will interrupt regular music video programming to air specific music videos in tribute to a recently-deceased musician. In lieu of Tony Bennett's passing on July 21, 2023, MTV Classic exclusively aired Bennett's music videos and live performances for the subsequent weekend, regardless of whatever block was scheduled. Some musicians/performers, such as Steve Harwell of the rock band Smash Mouth, have their music videos played periodically throughout the broadcast day of their passing, mixed into regular programming.


Main article: List of programs broadcast by MTV Classic


  1. ^ a b Hay, Carla (July 11, 1998). "MTV, Box Take Steps In Digital Programming" (PDF). Vol. 110, no. 28. pp. 8, 92. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  2. ^ "The Suite from MTV and VH1" (PDF). Broadcasting & Cable. January 26, 1998. p. 54. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  3. ^ Carter, Bill (November 25, 1997). "Using New Digital Technology, MTV Adds Specialized Channels". The New York Times. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  4. ^ Hay, Carla (August 22, 1998). "MuchMusic Readies Awards, Spinoff Channel; MTV's Suite Set". Vol. 110, no. 34. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 85. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  5. ^ Hay, Carla (August 14, 1999). "Launch Debuts 5 Web Channels; VH1 Smooth Now Classic Rock". Vol. 111, no. 33. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 101. Retrieved March 12, 2017.
  6. ^ "VH1 CLASSIC Will No Longer Produce 'That Metal Show'". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. January 19, 2016. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  7. ^ Steinberg, Brian (January 14, 2015). "VH1 Classic To Run 433-Hour 'Saturday Night Live' Marathon". Variety. Retrieved November 19, 2016.
  8. ^ Petski, Denise (January 14, 2015). "'Saturday Night Live' Mega-Marathon Set To Air On VH1". Deadline. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  9. ^ Bradley, Bill (April 9, 2014). "'The Simpsons' Launches On FXX With Longest Continuous Marathon Ever". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 19, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Greene, Andy (June 7, 2017). "Flashback: A Random 78 Minutes of MTV From June 1982". Rolling Stone. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  11. ^ "MTV Classic bringing The 2011 Beavis and Butt-Head, Aeon Flux and music videos back on-air". Polygon. Vox Media. July 28, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  12. ^ "MTV Launches 'Classic' Channel Dedicated to 1990s". Rolling Stone. July 28, 2016. Retrieved July 29, 2016.
  13. ^ Barton, Chris (December 29, 2016). "A made-for-TV New Year's: From 'Twilight Zone' to James Bond, a rundown of the marathons". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 1, 2017.
  14. ^ Collins, Scott; Maglio, Tony (December 29, 2016). "21 Least-Watched Cable Channels, From MTV Classic to Sprout". TheWrap. Retrieved January 3, 2017.
  15. ^ Crupi, Anthony (February 27, 2017). "Small change: Why niche cable nets are on their last legs | Media - AdAge". Advertising Age. Retrieved February 27, 2017.
  16. ^ Katz, A.J. (June 6, 2017). "Cable Network Ranker: Week of May 29". TVNewser. Retrieved June 7, 2017.
  17. ^ Katz, AJ (July 25, 2017). "MSNBC Wins Weeknights Across the Board; Fox News is Most-Watched For Full Calendar Week | TVNewser". Adweek. Retrieved July 26, 2017.
  18. ^ Schneider, Michael (December 28, 2017). "Highest Network Ratings of 2017: Most Watched Winners & Losers". IndieWire. Retrieved December 28, 2017.
  19. ^ "Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2018's Winners and Losers". December 27, 2018.
  20. ^ Schnieder, Michael (December 26, 2019). "Most-Watched Television Networks: Ranking 2019's Winners and Losers". Variety. Retrieved December 31, 2019.