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Few artists made the long trip to New Zealand to appear live., MTV launched with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll," spoken by John Lack and played over footage of the first Space Shuttle launch countdown of Columbia (which took place earlier that year) and of the launch of Apollo 11.

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Several music programs originating outside of the US, including Australia's Countdown and the United Kingdom's Top of the Pops, which had initially aired music videos in lieu of performances from artists who were not available to perform live, began to feature them regularly by the mid-1970s.

In 1974, Gary Van Haas, vice president of Televak Corporation, introduced a concept to distribute a music video channel to record stores across the United States, and promoted the channel, named Music Video TV, to distributors and retailers in a May 1974 issue of Billboard.

Within two months, record stores in areas where MTV was available were selling music that local radio stations were not playing, such as Men at Work, Bow Wow Wow and the Human League.

The original purpose of MTV was to be "music television", playing music videos 24 hours a day and seven days a week, guided by on-air personalities known as VJs, or video jockeys.

The channel, which featured video disc jockeys, signed a deal with US Cable in 1978 to expand its audience from retail to cable television.