Sunday’s MTV’s Video Music Awards saw a big drop in viewership on TV, but an enormous gain in online viewing. The TV audience dropped from 9.8 million last year to 6.5 million this year. Online, however, MTV says the show had 62 million streams, a huge leap from the 37 million streams of a year ago.
The streaming numbers from Facebook are even more startling. The VMAs accounted for 46 million streams—that’s more than 900 percent growth over 2015.
While the year-to-year slide is big, the trend shouldn’t surprise anyone. MTV hardly shows music videos anymore. The Video Music Awards actually celebrate something the channel doesn’t feature. Music videos are consumed online by an audience that was raised as “digital natives.” It only makes sense that the VMA audience is online.
And is it ever. The Video Music Awards was the top social program Sunday by a wide margin. Nielsen’s Social Content Ratings put it in the top spot, reporting it had four million unique social media account mentions. CBS’s Big Brother was in second, with 160,000. It wasn’t even close.
As far as the ad dollars, it’s true the news isn’t great for Viacom. The drop in their TV audience means a big loss in TV ad revenue. (The Video Music Awards was shown across 11 Viacom channels). MTV did sell advertising for the VMAs on its site and its apps, but won’t see much from the Facebook audience. But that will change. When YouTube first came out, detractors said “Sure, there’s a big audience, but there’s no revenue.” Money finds the audience. It’s smart for MTV to go digital, and moving the VMAs to social media is the best hope to reach, and even grow, a young audience that’s passionate about music.