MTV Returns to Music Videos (on the Web)

Today, MTV quietly launched its long-promised MTVMusic.com, a new site devoted to music videos. We say “quietly” because we’ve only seen the news on Silicon Alley Insider, which appears to have broken the story, and we say “long-promised” because we were briefed on this project many, many, many months ago.

You can tell MTVMusic.com is brand spankin’ new because the most viewed video of all time is Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” with a whopping 564 views, and Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time” (shudder) is No. 9 with 92 views.

As SAI points out, the site’s design is very clean, but part of that could be because no one has filled in any comments, and there are only still house ads pointing to classic videos like “Thriller” and “Like a Prayer” instead of some gaudy, animated ad for Axe body spray.

There are full sharing capabilities with Facebook, MySpace and the Viacom-owned Flux social networks, along with full video embeds (though embeds annoyingly use autoplay, so I put a video after the jump). In addition to music videos, there are also concert clips and interviews.

MTV built its brand on playing music videos and subsequently became something of a joke, as it whittled down the number of actual music videos played in order to become the home for The Hills. Will the web offer it a chance at musical redemption?

It’s a tough call. Because it took MTV so long to come to the party, YouTube became the online, on-demand version of MTV for an entire generation. Type in just about any band or song and if there’s a music video, it’s on YouTube — though the quality varies greatly depending on the result. And quality could be MTV’s saving grace. If it builds up a big enough library, having a decent result each time could get people to switch over from YouTube.

MTV has other competitors to worry about in this space. Universal Music Group (UMG) has plans to build its own music video hub. And Will Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment-backed PluggedIn, also has its sites set on becoming the MTV of music videos on the web. MTV’s potential to be the dominant player in this space is surely something the Fresh Prince can understand.

(Disclosure: I used to work at MTV parent company Viacom.)

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