MTV VMAs Ratings Down

A very mechanical-looking MTV VMA stage featuring giant moonpersons.

The 2017 MTV Video Music Awards staging was designed by Stufish Entertainment Architects.

The 34th annual MTV Video Music Awards took a 16 percent dip among viewers 18-34 demo, scoring a 4.46 rating and about 6 million viewers on Sunday. That’s a smaller  decline than the 34 percent nosedive of 2016, when 6.5 million 18-34 viewers tuned in, for an overall 5.33 rating.

Last year, network parent Viacom touted gains in online streaming as a mediating factor (45.8 million streams on Facebook, a 938 percent increase over 2015, when Facebook was apparently not live streaming). This year, Viacom is taking consolation in the fact that the VMAs drew more young viewers than HBO’s record-shattering Game of Thrones episode, with 309,000 viewers 12-24.

The VMA show was simulcast from the L.A. Forum at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Aug. 27 across 11 Viacom networks, including Nickelodeon, Spike, CMT, VH1 and TV Land. The company is again citing healthy non-traditional viewing as an offsetting factor to declining ratings. But in general, the downward trend underscores a challenge in keeping any awards show fresh after three decades, much less in a saturated awards environment.

In May, the 2017 Billboard Awards also charted a 16 percent decline from 2016, but its 2.6 rating among adults 18-49 translated to more total viewers (8.7 million — more TVs were on that night) according to Nielsen’s final numbers, which will not be released until tomorrow for the 2017 VMAs.

While the Nielsen live-plus-same-day numbers have lost some relevance among networks in today’s DVRing age, where live-plus-three or live-plus-seven give a more accurate reflection of who’s watching, the live-plus-same-day ratings are considered useful with regard to live events. Nielsen will be issuing official VMA numbers tomorrow.

The 2017 VMA’s garnered mixed reviews.  Variety said it “ping-ponged” between Vegas schmaltz, political diatribes and factional shade-throwing, and lamented host Katy Perry’s victimization from a poorly written script riddled with flat jokes.

Performers included Beyoncé, Pink, Kanye West and Demi Lovato. Actor-turned-rocker Jared Leto delivered a memorial remembrance of Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell, both of whom committed suicide earlier this year. Billboard characterized Kendrick Lamar’s opening performance as the “best” part, and Perry’s opening monologue among the “worst.”

The telecast was politically laced, with a new category for Best Fight Against the System, and a change from the “moonman” nomenclature used to describe the trophy to the more PC “moonperson” (a switch hailed as “long overdue,” leading one to believe the typical VMA viewers don’t have enough to think about when they’re not dwelling on the VMAs).

The show was Twitter-friendly, trending globally for 13 hours — from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. ET on Sunday —  and was was the number-one trending topic in the U.S., according to Variety. And the video for Taylor Swift’s new single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” broke records for viewership after premiering on the VMA show, notching 31 million views within 24 hours, proving the MTV awards telecast is still a marketing juggernaut.

See the complete list of winners.

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