Cable Music Channel
|Cable Music Channel|
|Launched||October 26, 1984|
|Closed||November 30, 1984|
|Owned by||Turner Broadcasting
Ted Turner (founder)
|Picture format||NTSC 480i|
||This article needs additional citations for verification. (August 2011)|
Cable Music Channel (CMC) was an all-music video channel created by Ted Turner and launched in 1984 by Turner Broadcasting System, providing the first national competition to MTV. Turner later stated that the channel existed at the behest of the cable industry as a defense mechanism against MTV's unsuccessful attempts to increase by twofold the fees cable systems paid to carry the channel; Turner offered the channel with no fees.
The idea of music on TV was nothing new for Ted Turner. In 1970, Turner's independent TV station, WTCG-TV in Atlanta, aired an all-music program called "The Now Explosion" nights and weekends, up to 28 hours per week. In 1983, Turner's TBS network created Night Tracks, a late night weekend music video block. The success of Night Tracks led Turner to take on MTV with the Cable Music Channel.
CMC signed on at 3:00 PM ET/12:00 PM PT on October 26, 1984 with CMC President Robert Wussler at a podium in CMC's studios in Los Angeles introducing the network and the playing of The Star Spangled Banner (which was a tradition whenever a new Turner Broadcasting System network first signed on). Afterwards, Wussler introduced CMC Vice-President and General Manager Scott Sassa to the podium. Sassa quickly greeted the crowd and then introduced 13th District Councilwoman Peggy Stevenson to the podium. Stevenson presented Ted Turner a City of Los Angeles proclamation declaring October 26, 1984 as Cable Music Channel Day signed by Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and herself. Turner gave a brief speech that the network is "gonna play a wide arrangement of music. We're gonna stay away from excessively violent or degrading clips towards women that MTV is so fond of running." Afterwards he pushed a big red button on the wall behind him with a defiant "Take that, MTV!" and kicked off the channel with CMC VJs Jeff Gonzer and Raechel Donahue introducing the Randy Newman music video "I Love L.A.". 
CMC vs. MTV
MTV was AOR and the VJ segments were pre-recorded; CMC was CHR (which enabled them to play soft rock, crossover country, dance and urban hits) and live. CMC also did news, sports and weather reports. MTV's video jockeys were seen; CMC's video jockeys were just heard. MTV's studios and offices were in a New York apartment; CMC's studios and offices were in a Los Angeles house (as opposed to Atlanta, where the headquarters of Turner Broadcasting System are located). CMC promoted itself as avoiding sexually and violently explicit music videos to capitalize on the perception that MTV actually played those types of videos. In fact, MTV had strict guidelines about the types of behavior which could be shown in videos and frequently returned clips to the labels for re-editing.
As a money-losing venture
It quickly became clear that CMC was losing money fast, due to an inability to sign up cable systems (many of whom didn't have the space for another all-music channel) or secure the rights to play top videos (MTV was accused of pressuring artists not to sell to CMC, citing "exclusivity" agreements). Within a month, despite an estimated audience of 2.5 million, Turner realized the jig was up; on November 29, he decided to sell CMC to MTV for $1 million, and MTV agreed to buy $500,000 worth of advertising on Turner's other channels, including CNN. Ironically, MTV used the channel (and its space on the Satcom satellite) to help form its new sister network, VH1, which launched on New Year's Day, 1985. In another ironic twist, Time Warner, the successor to MTV's then part-owners Warner Communications would purchase Turner's networks in 1996 (MTV by that point, was owned by Viacom, which was split in two companies in 2006 and is still owned by the new Viacom).
Cable Music Channel officially signed off just before midnight ET on November 30, 1984; the last chyroned video aired was "Take Me to Heart" by Quarterflash, followed by a signoff listing the entire crew of CMC interspersed through the video "I Love L.A." by Randy Newman. As the screen faded to black, CMC VJ Raechel Donahue said, "Well, it's not really goodbye you know darlings. We'll always be there somewhere so watch this space. Say goodbye y'all now." A male voice replied, "Goodbye y'all." Ten seconds later, the signal was cut off.
CMC's five weeks on the air made it one of the shortest-lived American cable networks ever. However, some of its background graphics lived on and were reused on Night Tracks from 1985-1989.
- [Billboard Magazine, 22 August 1970, p. 76]
- Mr. Pop Culture: Mr. Pop History - Music News from the week of October 27, 1984
- Cable Music Channel sign on
- Cable Music Channel sign off