The downward spiral of the MTV Video Music Awards' TV performance continued Thursday night as the ceremony's audience plunged from last year and VMA fans headed online.
The show, once a ratings juggernaut for MTV, pulled in an average of just 5.77 million total viewers over its three hour telecast starting at 8 p.m., down 28% from the 8 million viewers it averaged last year, according to preliminary data from Nielsen Media Research. Just two years ago, the show brought in nearly double last night's audience-10.3 million viewers.
While still about five times what MTV has averaged in primetime this summer, the show's TV audience last night is a shadow of the 12 million viewers it once earned. The numbers have to be frustrating for MTV executives who moved the show back to its former home, New York City, after last year's poor showing in Miami.
With digital media, including video-heavy Internet sites, competing for its core young audience, MTV has struggled to maintain its status as the coolest place for youth. Last night's show was widely criticized for being dull and lacking the sort of buzz-worthy moments of VMAs past.
The show averaged a 5.21 share with MTV's target audience of viewers 12-34, the network says. Illustrating that that audience is preferring to spend time online these days, MTV's broadband video site Overdrive saw its highest day of traffic ever yesterday with 3.9 million streams, up more than 200% over last year. MTV programmed the site, as well as its digital cable channels and other multimedia platforms, with more VMA extras than ever this year.