How the 2017 American Music Awards Audience Changed (Dramatically) This Year

A look at the awards show using data from Canvs and Inscape
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Forty-five years in, the American Music Awards show continues to be one of TV’s enduring tentpoles—and a pop-cultural touchstone that becomes a social media obsession the night it airs. For Sunday’s telecast on ABC, hosted by Tracee Ellis Ross (star of black-ish), viewers once again flocked to Twitter in particular to weigh in about the stars, the outfits, the performances and the awards themselves.

Data from Inscape, the TV data company with glass-level information from 7 million smart TV screens and devices, reveals that although viewership increased from the 2016 show, loyalty did not; 86% of this year’s audience was new compared to 2016, and 79% of the audience from last year didn’t watch this year’s show.

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There were two moments in particular where people were really tuned in: Christina Aguilera’s moving tribute to Whitney Houston (more on that below) and Pink’s performance toward the end of the evening where she literally scaled a building, accompanied by aerial dancers.

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Here’s a population-normalized heatmap of viewership across the U.S. (the darker the color, the more likely people in given states were to be watching the show, regardless of the total population of that state).

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According to Canvs, the emotion measurement company, there were 580,262 Emotional Reactions (ERs) to the AMAs on Sunday evening, an increase from last year’s 556,489 ERs. As you may expect, positive emotions reigned supreme: 35.9% of messages expressed love, 12.7% congrats and 9.2% mentioned something/someone being beautiful.

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One performance in particular had viewers particularly fired up: K-pop sensation BTS, who performed their hit song “DNA.” The group was mentioned in 8.9% of all ERs.

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Another popular conversation topic online was Whitney Houston. People reacted strongly to Christina Aguilera’s tribute to the beloved singer and actress (some were touched by Aguilera’s performance, others thought she didn’t measure up to Houston’s legacy), which included performing hits from The Bodyguard, in which Houston played an iconic role. Aguilera sang versions of “I Will Always Love You,” “I Have Nothing,” “Run to You” and “I’m Every Woman” as scenes from the movie played on a screen above the stage.

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