What does the MTV Video Music Awards’ viewership decline mean?

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For the first time in the history of the award show, less than a million people watched the 2021 Video Music Awards on MTV, a ceremony which was inaugurated in 1984. The viewership decline brought the 2021 VMAs, held in New York, to a record low of 900.000 viewers on MTV, however the total viewership was several million, thanks to the fact that the ceremony was broadcast on 13 channels total.

The worst numbers in the last 37 years

 Before the “M” in MTV stopped signifying music, the VMAs were a massive spectacle for decades. The awards ceremony had its largest audience in 2011, with 12.4 million viewers, which beat the previous record of 11.95 million from 2002.

The 2011 Video Music Awards provided MTV with its largest audience in the history of the channel, but 10 years later, a divided media environment and a declining interest in watching live awards ceremonies on TV brought a large decline in viewership

This year’s VMAs viewership dropped by 31% in regards to last year when 1.3 million people watched the annual ceremony on MTV. This year’s 900.000 viewers represent the fifth year in a row which saw a decline in the viewership of the VMAs, even taking into account the viewers of other channels such as VH1, Comedy Central, BET and CW which also transmit the award show.

A decline in viewership, but a success on social media

 According to Nielsen, despite the drop in ratings, the 2021 Video Music Awards were remarkably successful on social media, generating 40.1 million interactions, which is just 5% less than America’s most popular sporting event of the year – the Super Bowl. It is noteworthy that public interest was sparked by the altercation between the singer Machine Gun Kelly and the former UFC champion, Conor McGregor, which led to even more comments on all social media.

Award shows are generally losing their TV viewers, the Golden Globes have felt a dramatic viewership fall of 63% when compared to 2020 (6.9 million compared to 18.3 million).

We don’t know if MTV is thinking of changing the concept of emitting their award shows, but we can certainly see that the traditional TV approach has stopped being appealing to potential viewers. People are looking for an additional interaction with friends or other people who are interested in the same content, this results in the turn towards social media or other online content.