MTV’s VMAs are reinventing how social is used to produce TV

By Natan Edelsburg 

In 2010 MTV made headlines by bringing Twitter to live TV for the Video Music Awards (VMAs). A year later they set a social TV record when Beyonce revealed she was pregnant. Last year, they made fans a bigger part of the show than ever before with social voting. For Sunday night’s VMAs (airing at 9pm ET) in Brooklyn MTV is reinventing what it means to produce television in a matured social TV world where fans and viewers live and speak in Vines, Instagram, GIFs and more. Here are the big announcements the network just made for Sunday’s ‘N Sync reunion-fueled VMAs.

Growing the livestreaming of the VMAs, starting at 4pm ET today:


Colin Helms, SVP of Connected Content at MTV described this year’s livestream as a “pop up channel,” with content that will “capture the energy and excitement on the ground in Brooklyn.”  Starting at 4pm fans will get to tune into a combination of produced content, music videos of the nominees and more. Once the show begins Sunday fans will enter a “choose your own experience,” world with 30 difference cameras, more than ever before, according to Helms.

The network further explains that:

Beginning today at 4:00 p.m. ET, VMA All Access kicks off with a lead-up livestream in partnership with Windows Phone. This newly expanded experience will provide a beyond-the-ropes look into all the action leading up to the awards show, optimized specifically for web, mobile and tablet screens including the recently launched MTV app for iOS and Xbox.

Evolving the role of the second screen, “a whole new form of UGC” from Twitter, Vine, Instagram and more:

Michael Scogin, MTV’s VP of Mobile and Emerging Platforms described the evolution of social TV and the VMAs. “For years, we tried to get people to go to the website and hit an upload button and that didn’t work,” Scogin described how fans would previously submit content. “Now through social, we can pull in content, moderate it quickly before it goes to digital and goes to TV,” he explained. “Technology is at place where you can do that,” he added. “It’s more about fans.”

The Twitter tracker has evolved to a more robust Social Radar. Here are the details:

This year, MTV will layer a creative call-to-action onto the VMA fan experience with the debut of its all-encompassing Social Radar, also launching today. Designed by Stamen Design and built by social experience firm Mass Relevance, Social Radar will aggregate social content from all VMA-related artists across Twitter, Vine, Instagram and Facebook, as well as all MTV VMA content and posts.

Content produced specifically for the second screen: 

“We’re really focused on the content of the second screen instead of just the technology,” Scogin told Lost Remote. Here’s how:

MTV will also use the VMAs to debut a unique synchronous, second-screen experience with content created specifically for the show, sponsored by Kia. This real-time viewing companion, dubbed “Revealed” and available in the MTV app on iOS as well as at, uses video, photos, factoids and more to reveal the secrets of the show as TV viewers watch the VMAs.

Live GIFing with Pop Tarts and growing social voting:


The network is making Animated GIFs (are you a hard G or soft G?) a bigger part of TV than ever before.

Building on the popularity of animated GIFs, MTV will also continue celebrating the art of GIF creation in partnership with Pop Tarts. Live GIF making will remain a key component throughout the night, with the return of a real-time GIF-It tool that allows fans to generate their own animated GIFs of show moments to share with their social networks. The Giffies also return this year, which will highlight the night’s funniest and most shocking moments on and MTV’s Tumblr. 

They are continuing to run an exciting new social category for Best Song of the Summer.

How social TV at the VMAs will complement the linear viewing experience:

We asked Helms and Scogin if their unprecedented social TV, second screen and fan engagement strategies will leave fans focused on the social more than the main screen. They both described how everything is extremely well thought out to be an additive complement. Helms described that they learned that fans are digesting the main screen and then looking for a “fun and new layer,” on top of that. Scogin added that the “linear broadcast is always the primary context where all of the other stuff lives off of.”