I hope you had a great weekend. Welcome back to another episode of Ask Ash, where I interview WatchMojo Founder & CEO Ashkan Karbasfrooshan and ask him various topics, ranging from covering the news to giving career advice to students & entrepreneurs.
Yesterday marked the 40th anniversary of MTV’s launch, and something that I had learned was that MTV was one of WatchMojo’s influences as a business. This left me intrigued and wanted to ask him more about how WatchMojo was influenced by MTV and some of the lessons that were taken along the process.
August 1 marked the 40th anniversary of MTV’s launch. How did MTV influence WatchMojo?
In terms of fragmentation, the Web did to cable television what cable did to network television. There have been many that have tried to become this generation’s MTV. You can argue that the MTV of this generation is YouTube, and before it perhaps MySpace… but those are platforms that aggregate and current the content. In the analogy, YouTube has replaced cable television;
The way MTV and ESPN were early to cable and built brands to capture the imagination of an entire generation, in some small way, I say that MTV or ESPN, WatchMojo was similarly early to YouTube and unlike other personality-driven channels, it became one of the most well-known brands on the platform. I discussed that a bit in this article.
Wouldn’t you say that WatchMojo’s lists were more reminiscent of VH1?
For sure… and VH1 parent Viacom not embracing YouTube created a huge opportunity for WatchMojo (and others). There are parallels between VH1 and MTV, to be fair.
They say imitation is the nicest form of flattery… but it’s important to stay one step ahead of others, too. As more and more channels on YouTube began to emulate our style of “voice-over and broll” and cover pop culture & entertainment franchises, we need to be smart about how we differentiate ourselves and stay fresh.
Like MTV, our early success came from curating other Intellectual Property (music videos in MTV’s case, us creating commentary over short clips of longer works). They inserted VJs who the audience grew to know and follow… and this is why we began to showcase our voice-over talent in the intros. Covid made that harder, as we moved to a virtual production environment, but we will bring that back.
Any cautionary tales and lessons to heed?
You’re not bigger than the Medium. Media is the plural of medium, but in this context, what I mean is no matter how cool or big you are – and MTV sure was cool and big – times change and you cannot think you are above changed in the medium. The Web’s paltry economics early on scared off Viacom and big media to embrace it… then it was too little, too late. ViacomCBS will be fine, but MTV today doesn’t have the same cachet it once did. I would argue that within Viacom, Nickelodeon may be its most valuable brand… and being slow to embrace the Web then forced it to go out and buy something like PlutoTV to build distribution.