DEBUT OF "BILLIE JEAN" & "THRILLER" VIDEOS AMONG TOP 12 INFLUENTIAL MOMENTS ON MTV
“Billie Jean” (1982): Prior to adding the opening clip from Michael Jackson’s 1982’s “Thriller,” a then 18-month old MTV played very few videos by black artists, as it considered itself an album rock format. CBS Records swears they played hardball with MTV to force them to play “Billie Jean,” MTV execs swear they always planned to play “Billie Jean,” and needed no arm twisting. Regardless of how it happened, adding “Billie Jean” to MTV’s rotation swung open the doors for black artists like Prince at the channel and catapulted Jackson’s career.
“Thriller” (1983): If “Billie Jean” bolstered Jackson’s superstar career, the “Thriller” video catapulted it—and MTV—into the stratosphere. MTV ponied up $1 million for the exclusive rights to the 14-minute clip, marking the first time MTV paid a label to air a video (paving the way for the exclusive label deals to come later that increased MTV’s dominance). MTV played the John Landis-directed mini-movie five times a day, a shrewd move that made MTV destination viewing and spiked rating tenfold.
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