MTV Fell 60% Short of VMA Ratings Guarantees, Media Buyers Say
By John Consoli -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/14/2012 1:57:23 PM
The network guaranteed a household rating of 8.0 and delivered a 3.2, guaranteed an 18-34 demo rating of 8.0 and only reached a 3.1 and guaranteed an 18-49 rating of 6.0 and only recorded a 2.3 in that demo.
The huge shortfalls will mean lots of make-goods for advertisers and has MTV executives wondering whether or not they should have moved the telecast from Sunday, where it drew 12.4 million viewers last year, to Thursday night this year, where it pulled in only 6.1 million viewers. While under normal circumstances an audience of 6 million for a cable show would be solid, the MTV Video Music Awards is the network's flagship event each year, and the glaring decline in viewers has brought the network lots of the wrong kind of publicity. Media agency research execs cannot recall an annual TV event special losing 50% of its audience from one year to the next.
While MTV will have to dole out a sizable amount of make-good commercial time, there were some positives for many of the advertisers who chose to activate their brands with sponsorships that went beyond TV commercials in the telecast.
"There were other metrics of success beyond the ratings," says one media agency executive. "The social media aspect is important, especially given the MTV demographic, which I think MTV delivered on."
An MTV spokesperson says, "We never talk about ratings guarantees or individual ad spends, but we can say that this year, the VMA on-air and online marketing partnerships reached incredible levels of engagement. From our multiple-screen campaign with Pepsi, to several integrated marketing executions throughout the show and the pre-show, our clients like P&G's Cover Girl, Verizon, State Farm and Microsoft/Bing were pleased with not only the seamless creative execution but record-breaking level of social engagement the VMAs prompted."
MTV said the awards telecast was the top social media event of the year, and according to research company Trendrr, the event drew more than three times the Internet conversation as last year's telecast. Trendrr reported that there were more than 19 million mentions during the telecast. However, that has no effect on the ratings numbers: The network still owes the make-goods for the shortfalls and for over-guaranteeing by 60% across multiple demos, which will mean a sizable financial hit for MTV.
Billie Gold, VP and director of buying/program research at media agency Carat, believes that moving the telecast from Sunday to Thursday night definitely contributed to some viewer decline. "Then they pushed it up to the 8 p.m. hour in order not to go directly against President Obama's nominating speech at the Democratic convention," Gold says. "The 8 p.m. start is an hour earlier than past telecasts and the HUT [Households Using Television] levels are lower during that hour. MTV's core audience is definitely more available later at night."
Gold says that while the Democratic Convention audience skews older, "I'm sure some viewers were lost."
Gold also raised a question as to whether the VMAs got the same level of pre-telecast promotion they received last year, and said Jersey Shore was already off the air a while before the VMA telecast, meaning the event lost a good promotional outlet to its core audience.
Much like the Oscars depend on the broad popularity of that year's movie nominees for Best Picture to draw audiences, the VMAs depend on the performers nominated in each category. While more young viewers may watch regardless, older viewers may not tune in if no one closer to their age is nominated.
"There was no Adele or any artist like her who appeals to multi-generations," Gold says. "Most people over 25 don't even know who One Direction is, and they were the big winners of the night."
On a percentage basis, Gold does not recall any annual major TV entertainment event losing 50% of its audience from the previous year. "The NAACP Awards on Fox dropped about 40% over a two-year period between 2009 and 2011," Gold says, but that was off a smaller audience base, and Fox shifted the night from the higher HUT levels of a Thursday night to lower-viewing night Friday. "In 2012, the NAACP Awards moved over to NBC and even though they aired on a Friday, the ratings went up a bit," Gold adds.
"The Oscars in 2008 had a 20% drop-off with the lack of any big budget movies and mostly dark independent films nominated that year. And the Miss America Pageant had some big declines when it went from ABC in 2004 to CMT. But that's all I can think of," says Brad Adgate, senior VP research at Horizon Media. Despite all the reasoning, Adgate says the 50% audience drop-off for the VMAs this year "was surprising."
"I think there is an ebb and flow in popularity of MTV and the last few years they have been on a ratings high led by Jersey Shore," Adgate adds. "Perhaps the pendulum is starting to swing back. While it was a popular social media event, that's more a function of the growth of social media than it is the popularity of the VMAs."
The MTV spokesperson said in previous years the VMA telecast has aired in late August rather than after Labor Day and that could have contributed to some of the audience falloff, with so much going on in August and into the first week of September. "This year posed some added complexities with the Olympics, both political conventions, the launch of some of the fall broadcast shows earlier, the NFL Kickoff telecast and venue availability. Plus we wanted to move to a larger arena this year, the Staples Center," the spokesperson explains.
No related content found.
No Top Articles
Digital Rapids provides market-leading software and hardware solutions, technology and expertise for transforming live and on-demand video to reach wider audiences on the latest viewing platforms more efficiently, more effectively and more profitably. Empowering applications from..more