Sneer all you want at Miley's crotch-thrusting antics with Robin Thicke (for the four of you who weren't watching, see the entire Ron English-ish fever dream below)—the VMA's were outrageous enough to nab 10.1 million total viewers and a 7.8 rating among people 12-34 (the network's target demo). It's especially good news considering the heavily sponsored program's dismal performance in 2012, though it has a ways to go before it reaches the record-breaking heights of the year before.
MTV also broke a social media record while they were at it—during the Cyrus/Thicke performance, Twitter clocked 306,000 Miley/Robin-related tweets per minute, passing the previous Twittered TV record holder, Beyoncé Knowles, for her half-time show at the Super Bowl. It's not exactly against Twitter's interests to publicize those figures, of course. The microblogging service inked a hefty partnership with MTV to use its Amplify promotion tool, so if you were seeing a whole lot of twerking tweets in your feed, it wasn't necessarily because all your friends were watching the VMAs.
Researchers tied TV viewership to social media earlier this summer; this kind of ratings win would seem to bear that data out.
It's a big win for the network and its heavily branded programming, helped in part, no doubt, by internecine sniping between MTV head Van Toffler and Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert, who extravagantly mocked Toffler on his show for stealing Colbert's guest—Daft Punk, who were set to make a "secret" guest appearance on the VMAs, which Colbert told the world in a segment that went viral the next day.
But perhaps the most important record broken by the VMAs this year was the network's accomplishment on the advertising front. It topped itself in ad partnerships, with Pepsi, Wrigley, Degree, Cover Girl, Microsoft, Pop Tarts, Time Warner Cable, Taco Bell and more sponsoring the awards ceremony itself and preshow performances. It's a show that helps move a lot of ad dollars for Viacom, which has become a low-quality environment for traditional spots but a major proponent of integrations and product placement over the past few years.