The VMAs in the Era of Cord-Cutting
August 31, 2015
August 31, 2015
“Did you watch the VMAs last night?”
It’s a question people have asked of each other since 1984, when Madonna set the tone for decades of debauchery by writhing on a stage to her hit song “Like a Virgin” at the first MTV Video Music Awards. While I don’t remember that particular controversy, I do remember Courtney Love throwing her makeup at Kurt Loder and Madonna and Lil Kim’s purple jumpsuit.
I was ill-equipped to hold up my end of the conversation this morning, because I recently cut my cable package down to its most basic level. As a cord-cutter, I no longer want my MTV. But I must admit, I kind of missed last night’s neon-and-squad extravaganza, because it took me a while to understand memes like this while doing my habitual morning social media scan. (Additionally, live-tweeting awards shows is good for my Klout score.)
Alas, if I’d done a little research before showtime, I could have ordered a pizza, fired up my laptop and streamed the awards.
Per Mic’s pre-show rundown of the event:
Oh. Of course.
As younger Americans continue to cut back (or have never had) a cable television package (including last night’s VMA host, Miley Cyrus, who recently told the New York Times she doesn’t “have TV”), MTV has struggled to adapt to the rapidly-evolving habits of its target audience. When it was launched in 1981, MTV was the only place to watch music videos. Thirty-four years later, music videos are available online for free, so the VMAs are more a nod to MTV’s history than a celebration of the content it airs on a daily basis.
It’s a smart move by MTV to make its signature award show available to the streaming crowd, especially after 2014’s VMAs experienced a whopping 18 percent drop in the ratings from 2013. It allows young viewers to watch the event and share the experience on social media, thus driving other young viewers to the show. It will be interesting to see if the ratings bounce back this year—and how many viewers of the spectacle watched online. Maybe next year, MTV should just Periscope or Snapchat the show.