The Moon Man is back Sunday, August 27th, 2017!
No… not Neil Armstrong of Apollo 11 fame, but rather the statue (modeled after him) that’s inextricably linked to MTV’s annual extravaganza: the Video Music Awards (better known by its initials, VMAs.) Of course, MTV’s biggest event of the year is not all about the statuary; after all, the awards ceremony was originally conceived thirty-four years ago as the “alternative Grammy,” a much hipper version that honors the best in music videos. Today, the Moon Man Award has reached iconic status and is recognized around the world in places you’ve never heard of. Indeed, the Moon Man served for many years as MTV’s network logo, and if you are of a certain age, the Moon Man is also an evocation of the earliest days of cable.
Which is a long-winded way of saying that this event is bigger than big and since 1984 has attracted a veritable “who’s who” of contemporary music from Rock, Soul, Blues, Rap, Country, Jazz… you name it.
But in the name of full disclosure, the Moon Man’s space suit has a slight tear in it with Live TV ratings falling once again during last year’s performance. Part of the problem is that MTV’s parent company (Viacom) is spreading the VMAs across all of their linear TV network properties. According to comScore, the VMAs appeared on a dozen Viacom networks last year which collectively achieved a Live U.S. household rating of 3.65 rating, with the MTV network receiving the largest individual rating (1.54.)
But the fragmenting of the VMA audience across numerous Viacom networks is just the tip of the iceberg. A much deeper problem is that MTV’s core audience (teens and young adults) is migrating in droves to all things digital, and asking the VMAs to hold on to its Live TV audience is an uphill battle. According to an August 30th, 2016 AP story that appeared in billboard, there were, “…149 million streams of VMA content online (through) a combination of live streaming (on) MTV‘s website and aggressive packaging of video clips on venues like Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the like.”
Which is not to say that traditional VMA TV ratings are shabby. Last year — buoyed by performances from Beyoncé and Britany Spears — MTV pulled down the highest cable network rating in the VMA’s 9pm – 11:30pm time slot. That’s out of 200+ cable networks measured by comScore! Moreover, the Live+15 Day DVR rating (2.67) is nearly three-quarters higher than the Live-only rating – a sure sign of viewer interest and engagement. And last — but not least — the VMAs deliver extra-high ratings against kids and teens, two increasingly hard-to-reach demographics via traditional TV:
Large Market Appeal
As we have found with past VMAs, there’s a fairly strong relationship between market size and market rating. In the chart below, we first ranked the entire DMA list (210 markets) from the largest market (New York / 7.37 Million HHs), to the smallest (Glendive, Montana / 4,230 HHs). We then divided the markets into 5 equal groups (or quintiles) of 42 markets each, and calculated the average HH universe estimate and average VMA HH rating for each quintile.
As can be seen in the chart below, the largest market group (i.e., Quintile 1) has an average universe of ~1.70 Million HHs per market, which generated — on average — a VMA HH rating of 1.75. The smallest market group (i.e., Quintile 5) has an average universe of only ~63,000 HHs per market. These small markets generated an average .89 HH rating – 49% lower than the largest markets:
Our quintile analysis, however, does not suggest that only large markets achieved high VMA ratings. That would be pushing the data further than it goes. Indeed, a quick perusal of the Top 25 highest rated markets reveals several small and medium ones, including Laredo, Texas (3.41 rating), Corpus Christi, Texas (2.66 rating), Baton Rouge, Louisiana (2.22 rating) and Springfield, Massachusetts (2.04 rating.) What these markets have in common is a fairly large concentration of African Americans and/or Hispanic populations. Indeed, ethnic / racial diversification is a hallmark of VMA viewership and that applies more or less across the board from the largest to smallest DMAs. And as can be seen below, African-American and Hispanic household ratings, as well as “Other” household ratings (which encompasses multi-ethnic/racial HHs), far exceed the national average:
Local Cable Ad Demand
Over the past two airings of the VMAs, over 70 clients ordered 330 spots across 32 Viamedia markets (~40% of our national footprint.) That comes to an average of over 2 VMA spots per client per year. And in terms of local cable advertising categories, Automotive and Retail & Department Stores captured far and away the largest shares at 37% and 31% respectively. The 31% share for Retail is seven-times higher than what we normally see for this category company-wide:
34 and Counting
Last year, the Video Music Awards didn’t have an official host, so maybe it was inevitable that MTV would turn to the mega-superstar Katy Perry to serve as both host (and performer) for this year’s 34th annual VMAs. And in keeping with the historical Moon-Man theme, Katy Perry was quoted as follows:
“I’ve been training with MTV in zero gravity, eating astronaut ice cream, and I’m on a group text with Buzz Aldrin and Neil deGrasse Tyson… (and) come August 27, I’ll be ready to be your MOONWOMAN! Brace for impact, kids.”
Or, as my generation put it decades ago… “Far out!”
And while Katy Perry has five nominations, that’s three less than the supernova of all American rappers, Kendrick Lamar, whose eight nominations include Best Video and Best Artist of the Year. Katy and Kendrick will be strutting their stuff at The Forum in Inglewood Cliffs, California, which will be rockin’ and boppin’ with numerous guest performers, including Pink, Fifth Harmony, Shawn Mendes and the always irrepressible Miley Cyrus.
Prepare for lift-off!
Written by Jonathan Sims
VP of Media Research, Viamedia