MTV VMAs 2017 Didn’t Turn Many Heads On Social Media


1Knowing that the Video Music Awards haven’t been getting the most stellar ratings of late, the network opted to shift its focus away from ratings and instead concentrate on their social media impact. Unfortunately, the social audience of the VMAs is seeing some stagnant growth as well.

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Guest post by Emily Blake of Next Big Sound

You may have heard that MTV’s Video Music Awards took a bit of a dip in TV viewership this year ― down from last year’s 6.5 million linear viewers to around 5.8 million. You might have also heard that the Game of Thrones season 7 finale managed to pull in a viewership more than twice that size.

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the steady decline of VMAs viewership year after year, this probably isn’t all that surprising. Just two years ago, the show saw around 9.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen. The network is well aware of this, too, and instead of getting too caught up in the show’s live TV ratings, they’ve switched their focus to its impact on social media.

But here’s the problem: The VMAs’ social audience doesn’t seem to be growing, either.

The 2017 VMAs, which aired live from The Forum in Los Angeles this Sunday, failed to generate nearly as much social conversation as shows in previous years. Why? Perhaps the biggest reason was its giant, fire-breathing competitor. According to Nielsen SocialGame of Thronesdrove more interactions on Facebook and Twitter than the VMAs, with the HBO show driving around 4.1 million interactions and the VMAs seeing around 3.9 million.

That means that the average VMAs viewer talked about the show more than the average Game of Thrones viewer, but 3.9 million is a very low number for the VMAs ― considering last year’s broadcast drove over 13 million interactions on Facebook and Twitter, according to Nielsen. (For those keeping score, that’s a decrease of over 70%.) Even last year’s show was nothing compared to 2015, when the show broke Twitter records to become the most-tweeted event in the U.S., apart from the Super Bowl. 

In addition to the fierce competition, the VMAs’ failure to launch this year could have a lot to do with the fact that, frankly, not many people showed up. Beyoncé wasn’t there. Rihanna wasn’t there. Kanye wasn’t there. Even Taylor Swift, who was debuting her new music video for “Look What You Made Me Do,” was nowhere to be found. And these are some of the most headline-grabbing celebrities around.

In addition to the fierce competition, the VMAs’ failure to launch this year could have a lot to do with the fact that, frankly, not many people showed up. Beyoncé wasn’t there. Rihanna wasn’t there. Kanye wasn’t there. Even Taylor Swift, who was debuting her new music video for “Look What You Made Me Do,” was nowhere to be found. And these are some of the most headline-grabbing celebrities around.

Logic, Khalid and Alessia Cara’s somber performance of “1–800–273–8255” was far from the most talked about performance. Rather, according to data provided by Twitter, that honor went to Jared Leto’s tribute to Chester Bennington. (Though most of that conversation was likely anger over the fact that MTV cut it off short and cut to a commercial.) Second was Shawn Mendes’ subdued performance of “There’s Nothin’ Holdin’ Me Back.”

In a piece in The Ringer, writer Justin Charity suggest that perhaps it isn’t the VMAs’ place to meddle in politics, and the data seems to back that up. Suggestion for next year’s show: Maybe add some dragons?

This article first appeared on Forbes.com on Wednesday, August 30.