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MTV Changes Its 'VMA' Style

9/07/2007 08:00:00 PM Eastern

This year, MTV's 24th annual Video Music Awards was cut to two hours, shot in Las Vegas and is scheduled to run in its original form for just one night, with remixes running throughout the week. With ratings down for the past several years, the network was hoping to inject some fresh energy into its marquee awards show and use it as a platform to kick off a push for viewer-generated content.

On the eve of the show, Executive Producer Dave Sirulnick talked to B&C's Anne Becker
about changes to the VMAs and MTV's relevancy.

Why are you running the original VMA telecast only on Sunday night and remixed versions throughout the week?

Part of the equation is certainly to alert viewers to the urgency of “You gotta check this out now because this is not gonna play again.” The way people report ratings and successes of shows as basing it just on an initial run—for all TV shows—those days are gone because it's not the way people consume things.

For us, the success of the VMAs is going to be judged on lots of criteria—first and foremost the creative: Do we think the show had the creativity that we are happy with, that our audience is happy with, that our peers, the musicians, who are participating in the show are happy with?

Then when you get into the business criteria, it's about ratings, the success on, on mobile, many different measurements, how many people ultimately consumed part of the VMAs. It's about the total viewership of an event.

The VMAs were sort of the official kickoff of your effort to integrate consumer video in your TV programming—what's the strategy?

We have armed the citizenry of Las Vegas with the ability to post whatever they see going on. Anyone with a camera can snap pictures and send them and they will get posted. They'll comment and create information on what's happening, and the viewer at home can comment on that. And rate and rank photos and video, and some of that will end up on TV during every MTV News segment in commercial breaks. The idea is that there's this big feedback loop happening.

The idea is if the audience enjoys this, the style would be a model for what want to do with News moving forward, having the audience involved in covering all aspects in what we cover in pop culture. We have an area now in the news site called You R Here all about the audience covering concerts, and that is really I think the beginnings of how will all work. It could be employed for politics, television, movie reviews.

It's a nice idea, but other TV brands have tried it to little avail. Do you think young consumers are conditioned to submit video through new sites, like YouTube, rather than through those of established TV brands?

If you're talking about a concert review, sure you can put it on YouTube, but that's like putting it in the phone book, just throwing it out there. There's a place people come to for that stuff, and that's MTV. Free-form video, that's not what we're talking about, we're talking more targeted and specific. We're asking our audience to talk about reacting to or being inspired by things happening in the news. It will have its place on MTV on television and on

You've seen the MTV's-lost-its-mojo-press, but do you think it's true that you stood still for too long while MySpace, Facebook and others stole your viewers' attention?

All I have to say is, watch the VMAs. Anyone wondering or doubting our place in music and pop culture should tune in and decide that after that. If somebody's opinion is we're one thing or another, once they've seen Sunday night, they can let the opinions fly.

How important is music really to MTV's brand these days?

If you ask me, MTV's firmly planted at the forefront of music. We're streaming almost one million music videos a day, and viewers are accessing more than 5,000 different music videos each day and exposed to new music every day on MTV. There's more music associated with MTV right now than there was 20 years ago. And I can say that because I was here then making MTV and I'm making it now.


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