Despite performances from top-shelf talents like Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar and an already iconic performance by Logic and Alessia Cara’s of their mental health awareness track, “1-800-273-8255” (which caused an upsurge of calls to National Suicide Prevention Lifeline), the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards only managed to attract 5.4 million viewers. It was the lowest total audience for the show since viewer tracking for the awards show began back in 1994.
Now, before we start going in on the declining audience —and arguably the quality/cultural influence of pop music in 2017—it should be noted that the VMAs aired on the same night as the finale of a certain dragon-and-snow zombie show. The season finale of Game of Thrones raked in 12.7 million viewers and was played during the same time slot Sunday night, which no doubt contributed to the VMAs poor showing.
That’s not to say Game of Thrones triumphed over the show in all categories. The VMAs managed to beat out Game of Thrones among teens and young adult viewers aged 12-24 from last year, averaging 309,000 teen viewers.
Of course, Jon Snow and company can’t explain the year-over-year decline in the VMAs viewership: 10.3 million watched the show in 2014, 9.8 million in 2015, and 6.5 million in 2016. This decline could be correlated with the rise of streaming, however, the VMAs were streamed 45.8 million times on Facebook in 2016, whereas there were only 4.4 million streams in 2015. That’s what they call “a strong upward trend”.
Another area in which the VMAs performed strongly was on Twitter, where the associated hashtag trended for 13 hours globally, and accounted for eight of Twitter’s Top 12 U.S. trending topics on Sunday night. What does this declining linear audience and upward digital viewership mean for the VMAs in the future (and by extension the future of music award shows in general?)
Get ready for the revolution, because the future will be streamed.