Commentary

MTV's Video Music Awards Turn Down Viewer Volume

Has MTV been YouTubed and MySpaced out of some "Video Music Awards" ratings--its perennial top-rated musical award show?

Down 32 percent in its key adult 12-34 demo, and off in total viewers for the third straight year, MTV has seen better days. Observers are predicting that cooler Web areas are finally taking their toll of MTV. The VMAs have been MTV's signature show honoring music videos--the bedrock of the network's origins.

The irony is that relatively new award shows, like the VMAs, were responsible for cutting into viewership of more established award shows--the Oscars and the Emmys. Now a glut of award shows are bringing everything down. For the first time, for example, the BET Awards in June posted better numbers than the VMAs.

VMAs numbers are lower, a trend in line with the programming at MTV's main channel: it doesn't really play music videos anymore. Music now mostly sets the scene for shows like "Laguna Beach" and "Pimp My Ride."

Few high notes are also in the songs at Viacom Inc., MTV's parent, with a sinking stock price compared to its former associated company, CBS Corp. But MTV is still a powerful firm, reporting that at the latest upfront it outperformed the cable market in general, getting a percent or two increase in pricing from the year before.

Speculation is that MTV will buy a YouTube or whatever else comes down the pike that grabs the fancy of young adult audience. Some days ago, a Wall Street Journal story said MTV had fallen drastically among 12-24 and 12-34 viewers against some younger-targeted Web sites.

MTV's long-lasting brand value has been unmatched over the last several decades, because there were few places for 12-24 viewers to go.  While this group still watches a lot of traditional TV--and a lot of MTV--listening to music, Web socializing and viewing short, goofy videos are, as we all know, activities that don't revolve around a single dominant young-targeted brand name.

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