- The 2019 MTV Video Music Awards will be the 35th annual presentation.
- The 2018 Video Music Awards drew nearly half a million fewer viewers than the previous year.
- The 2018 Video Music Awards will take place on August 26, 2019.
The MTV Video Music Awards soldiers on although much like the network itself. Realistically speaking, the relevance of MTV in the new world of digital content is dubious at best. The show (and network) long ago abandoned any pretense of being ‘edgy’ or anywhere but well within the boundaries of the mainstream corporate music industry. Today, it’s much like the Grammy Awards–the same ‘mainstream’ artists win award after award as an ever shrinking ‘lowest common denominator audience tunes in to watch.
It’s amazing how quickly and how decisively the VMA’s audience has declined. In 2011 the show did a 10.8 rating with a viewership of 12.4 million. In 2012, the show did a 2.8 rating with just 6.13 million viewers. At least the network had an excuse that year–the party line was that the rescheduling of the show from 9 PM to 8 PM to avoid conflict with President Obama’s speech at the Democratic National Convention. Unfortunately, the decline has continued and there are no more excuses. The VMA’s rebounded in 2013 with a 7.8 rating and a viewership of 10.1 million though that was two points and over 2 million viewers less than 2011.
MTV VMA VIEWERSHIP CIRCLING DOWN THE DRAIN
Since then the bottom has fallen out. In 2014, the VMA’s lost nearly 2 million more viewers and in 2015 they lost over 3 million more. This happened despite a tactical move to beef up viewership–the VMA’s were shown on all of MTV’s ‘sister networks’. The bleeding continued in 2016 with the audience dropping to 3.3 million on MTV and to 6.5 million across platforms. In 2017, they lost nearly a million more viewers across all platforms dropping to 5.68 million viewers. The decision to air live against the Game of Thrones finale is either a completely boneheaded scheduling move or a tactical decision made to provide a ready made excuse for a poor viewership number. The freefall continued in 2018 which set a new record low, surpassing the previous record low set in…2017.
Monday’s show drew 2.25 million viewers and a 1.1 rating among adults 18-49. Across eight Viacom-owned channels, it drew 4.87 million viewers and a 2.2 in the demo; both sets of numbers fall short of the 2017 VMAs, which set the previous low.
They didn’t have the excuse of competing with the Game of Thrones finale last year as they did in 2017. Even more problematic than the declining ratings is the erosion of MTV’s core audience:
The 2017 awards also aired opposite a huge Game of Thrones finale on HBO; the heaviest head-to-head competition on cable Monday was WWE Monday Night Raw on USA (1.1 in 18-49, 3.1 million viewers) and an NFL preseason game on ESPN (0.8, 2.66 million).
The VMAs suffered even steeper declines among MTV’s core viewership of teens and young adults. In the 18-34 demo, the show’s 1.2 rating fell by almost half — 47 percent, to be precise — from 2.2 a year ago. It declined by similar percentages in the 12-34 cohort.
We’ve got some special TV ratings props included with the VMA odds below. When publications not known for their cutting edge musical tastes such as the Washington Post are doing articles entitled “MTV’s Video Music Awards are around the corner. But will anyone care?” it’s evident that 2019 could be another new ratings low for the show.
MARGINALIZING BTS AND THE K-POP CONTROVERSY
Over the past two months, I’ve had two separate Uber drivers in two different cities talk to me about their love of K-Pop. K-Pop is short for ‘Korean pop music’ and is similar to it’s predecessor ‘J-Pop’ (Japanese pop music). It’s typically performed by bands comprised of teenage boys and over the past year has absolutely blown up in popularity. This has all been led by a band called BTS. Their huge worldwide popularity is remarkable–here’s a few resume entries from an article on Vox.com:
BTS’s US prominence has expanded rapidly over the last two years, when the band began to smash one success metric after another, from spending multiple weeks on US charts to making a landmark appearance at the American Music Awards to collaborating with the Chainsmokers on their song “Best of Me,” as well as with Steve Aoki on their December 2017 single remix “Mic Drop.”
BTS is now celebrating a truly unprecedented rise, coming off a truly huge year of milestone accomplishments. In 2018, they became the first South Korean band in history to debut an album at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200 chart, as well as the first to have a single land at No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. The band’s world tour promptly sold out. They followed up their earlier collaborations with Aoki and the Chainsmokers by collaborating with Nicki Minaj. They made a landmark appearance before the UN and performed in Times Square on Good Morning America. They even snagged a couple of Guinness World Records for their incredibly engaged fanbase.
BTS TAKES OVER THE WORLD
That part about their ‘incredibly engaged fanbase’ is what really intrigued me. Raw numbers like 20+ million followers of their YouTube channel are impressive enough but what was really unique about my interaction with the two K-Pop fan Uber drivers was how anxious they were to find ‘common ground’ with me in order to introduce me to their music. I talked about my general fondness for Asian culture and about Taichi’s great J-pop-esque gimmick in New Japan Pro Wrestling. At the end of the ride, both reminding me to check out BTS on Spotify or YouTube. One of them helpfully wrote their name and a couple of song titles on a Post-It note.
I’d thought about these interactions several times prior to the MTV Video Music Awards nomination controversy. I’ve got really broad musical tastes but I can’t recall anyone saying to me in any context: “I know that (insert band name here) might not be your usual thing but I think you might like them”. Obviously there’s been plenty of times when someone has recommended bands in a specific or related genre–like telling me about new metal bands I might like. I know I’ve never tried to proactively introduce someone to a band like that, let alone a total stranger. Maybe because I don’t think it would work well to say “I know you’re an Ariana Grande fan but have you ever heard Don’t Break the Oath by Mercyful Fate?
Despite BTS’ insane popularity, the majority of nominees for the MTV Video Music Awards were the ‘usual suspects’ of recording industry darlings. You know, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, so on and so forth. The same acts you see nominated for the Grammy Awards, American Music Awards, Billboard Awards, etc. The lowest common denominator is getting lower and the mainstream is shrinking by the day as pop culture fragments. For whatever reason, MTV decided that despite their popularity that BTS didn’t belong in any of the major categories. They were thrown a bone with a nomination in the ‘Best Collaboration’ category but that might have more to do with the presence of Halsey, who is at least on the periphery of ‘accepted acts’. Instead, BTS got a couple of nominations in the ‘professional categories’ which don’t factor in fan voting including ‘Best Art Direction’ and ‘Best Choreography’.
MTV SNUBS BTS BIGTIME, THEIR FANS AREN’T PLEASED
If MTV was wanting to snub BTS they should have done it the old fashioned way and just ignored them. It would have been tough to justify considering that the video for ‘Boy With Luv’ has been watched 471 million times on YouTube but they wouldn’t have attracted as much derision. Instead, they relegated BTS to a brand new ‘Best K-Pop’ category. The problem with this is that it makes it obvious that MTV made a calculated decision to exclude BTS from the major categories. Some have suggested that this is racist but it has more to do with MTV’s aversion to anything that threatens the music industry status quo than an ‘anti-Asian’ agenda.
On one hand, MTV validates the quality of the ‘Boy With Luv’ video by nominating it for the ‘Best Collaboration’ award along with ‘Best Art Direction’ and ‘Best Choreography’. This is significant since they can’t make the case that BTS was excluded from the ‘big’ awards for qualitative reasons. Given their status as a music industry power broker they also can’t claim ignorance by suggesting they underestimated the popularity of BTS. They intentionally marginalized the most popular band in the world at the moment. They did this not because of race–they did it because BTS is simply ‘too popular’ and would likely win any category with a fan voting component. They couldn’t risk that as it wouldn’t allow MTV to ‘push’ the acts that the music industry ‘wants’ them to push.
Here’s the good news for BTS and their fans. They don’t need the MTV Video Music Awards. At this late stage of the VMA lifecycle they’re more of a marketing gimmick than recognition of artistic achievement. They’re a label for the music industry to slap onto certain artists’ CDs in hopes of moving more product. While the the music industry is hoping to use the VMA imprimatur to sell a few thousand more Taylor Swift albums, BTS has a half billion people watching their video on YouTube. MTV in general and the video music awards in particular are becoming less relevant by the day. MTV most definitely did everything they could to ‘protect’ the more ‘mainstream’ acts from BTS by minimizing their exposure to fan based voting. Thankfully, it just doesn’t matter for BTS or any other band any more–assuming that it ever did.
Here’s the official SPORTSINSIDER.COM betting odds for the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards:
MTV VIDEO MUSIC AWARDS 2019 BETTING ODDS
VIDEO OF THE YEAR
Thank U, Next/Ariana Grande +225
You Need to Calm Down/Taylor Swift +300
Old Town Road/Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus +300
Sucker/Jonas Brothers +500
Bad Guy/Billie Eilish +500
A Lot/21 Savage feat. J. Cole +750
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Ariana Grande +200
Billie Eilish +350
Jonas Brothers +350
Shawn Mendes +500
Cardi B +500
BEST NEW ARTIST
Billie Eilish +150
Lil Nas X +300
Ava Max +450
SONG OF THE YEAR
Old Town Road/Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus +175
Thank U, Next/Ariana Grande +225
You Need to Calm Down/Taylor Swift +500
Shallow/Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga +500
Sucker/Jonas Brothers +700
In My Feelings/Drake +700
Boy with Luv/BTS feat. Halsey -200
Old Town Road/Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus +500
Mel/Taylor Swift feat. Brendon Urie +750
Shallow/Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga +750
Senorita/Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello +1000
I Don't Care/Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber +1000
PUSH ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Billie Eilish +115
Thank U, Next/Ariana Grande +200
You Need to Calm Down/Taylor Swift +350
Sucker/Jonas Brothers +500
Bad Guy/Billie Eilish +500
Easier/5 Seconds of Summer +700
Please Me/Cardi B and Bruno Mars +700
BEST HIP HOP
Old Town Road/Lil Nas X feat. Billy Ray Cyrus -150
A Lot/21 Savage feat. J. Cole +450
Money/Cardi B +750
Sick Mode/Travis Scott feat. Drake +750
Rule the World/2 Chainz feat. Ariana Grande +750
Higher/DJ Khaled feat. Nipsey Hussle & John Legend +750
Waves/Normani feat. 6lack +125
Feels Like Summer/Childish Gambino +350
Make It Better/Anderson Paak feat. Smokey Robinson +350
Trip/Ella Mai +700
Raise a Man/Alicia Keys +700
Could've Been/H.E.R feat. Bryson Tiller +700
Mala Mia/Maluma +250
Mia/Bad Bunny feat. Drake +300
Con Calma/Daddy Yankee feat. Snow +350
I Can't Get Enough/Benny Blanco, etc. +500
Con Altura/Rosalia and J Balvin feat. El Guincho +500
Anuel AA and Karol G/Secreto +500
Happier/Marshmello and Bastille +225
Taka Taka/DJ Snake et. al. +350
Solo/Clean Bandin feat. Demi Lovato +350
Call You Mine/The Chainsmokers feat. Bebe Rexha +500
Electricity/Silk City and Dua Lipa +500
Could've Been/H.E.R feat. Bryson Tiller +500
High Hopes/Panic at the Disco +250
Natural/Imagine Dragons +300
Low/Lenny Kravitz +350
My Blood/Twenty One Pilots +500
Love It If We Made It/The 1975 +500
Bishops Knife Trick/Fall Out Boy +500
Boy with Luv/BTS feat. Halsey -750
Any Other Video +600
VIDEO FOR GOOD
You Need to Calm Down/Taylor Swift -180
Land of the Free/The Killers +350
Preach/John Legend +750
Earth/Lil Dicky +750
Runaway Train/Jamie N Commons and Skylar Grey +750
2019 VMA ALL NETWORK VIEWERSHIP
Over 4.25 Million +210
Under 4.25 Million -250
2019 VMA ALL NETWORK KEY DEMO RATING
Over 2.01 +150
Under 2.01 -180
WILL THE 2019 VMA ALL NETWORK VIEWERSHIP REACH A NEW RECORD LOW?
The previous three TV ratings propositions will be graded using data reported at TV By The Numbers. Ratings and viewership totals based on aggregate viewership across all Viacom owned networks that air the 2019 VMAs live.