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The 2016 MTV Video Music Awards

You can count on one hand the number of shows that are inextricably linked to a piece of statuary – and one of them is MTV’s annual extravaganza event: the Video Music Award (better known by its initials, the VMAs), which aired on Sunday, August 28th. The VMAs’ statue, of course, is the “Moon Man”– one of cable’s original icons and which served for many years as MTV’s network logo.

Now in its thirty-third year, the VMAs were originally conceived 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. 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.

If there’s a slight tear in the Moon Man’s space suit, it’s probably due to the young audience that typically watches the VMAs and which –increasingly – has migrated a good deal of their video consumption to all things digital. How else to explain the 2015 Live U.S. household rating (2.55) and share (3.87) – both of which were down significantly from the previous two VMAs, and barely matched the levels from 2012?

One silver lining in the VMAs ratings cloud: If we consider Live+ DVR playback up to 15 days, the rating doubles (5.22) and as can be seen below, a little over one-half of all household tuning to the 2015 VMAs was on a DVR-delayed basis:

2016 VMAs - Viamedia - Advertising on Cable 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 / 7.44 Million HHs), to the smallest (Glendive, Montana / 4,330 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 2.87. The smallest market group (i.e., Quintile 5) has an average universe of only ~64,000 HHs per market. These small markets generated an average 1.57 HH rating – 45% lower than the largest markets:

VMAs 2016 - Advertise on Cable TV

The above quintile analysis, however, does not suggest that only large markets achieved high VMA ratings. That would be pushing the data further than it goes. In fact, there are several medium and smaller sized markets that performed quite well, such as Corpus Christi, Texas (4.42 rating), Springfield-Holyoke, Massachusetts (3.54 rating) and Baton Rouge, Louisiana (3.31 rating.) What these three markets have in common is a fairly large concentrations 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, Hispanic, “Other” (which encompasses multi-ethnic/racial HHs) and African-American household ratings far exceed the national average:

Video Music Awards on MTV 2016

One last word about the VMA ratings. We can parse them a dozen ways to Sunday, and we can make them look relatively large and/or relatively small (depending on the criteria.) But no data analysis of the VMAs should detract from one, very basic fact: this is a strong ratings performer! Last year’s 2015 VMAs propelled MTV to the fifth highest rated network in the 9-11pm time slot. That’s out of 250 broadcast and cable networks measured and reported by comScore!

Local Cable Ad Demand

One indication of the VMA’s drawing power can be seen in the chart below in which the MTV Network’s share of total Viamedia advertising rose to over five percent on the Sunday of the VMAs (which aired on August 30th, 2015). In stark contrast, MTV’s shares on the Sunday before and after the VMAs were less than one-fifth that level:

2016 VMAs Viamedia

Over the past two years, 60 clients across 40% of Viamedia’s national market footprint ordered 270 local cable spots. That comes to an average of over two VMA spots per client (per year.) And in confining our analysis to only those markets that exhibited advertising in both years, we find overall ad investments up 57% driven by an increase in the number of 30-second spots.

(Source: B.I.G.SM database — Copyright © 2016 by Viamedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved)

In terms of local cable advertising, the past two VMAs have attracted significant shares from three key categories: Automotive (33%), Retail & Department Stores (29%) and Hardware & Home Improvement (20%.) Collectively, these three groups comprise over 80 cents on the dollar in local cable advertising investments:

Cable TV Advertising on the 2016 VMAs

33 and Counting

Sunday, August 28th marked the 33rd annual Video Music Awards, which returned to New York City after three successive years in California. And for the first time ever, the show was held at one of the most famous venues in the entire world, Madison Square Garden, where the rafters are sure to be vibrating for several hours on end. As of this writing, this year’s host has not been named, but that doesn’t really matter given the star power scheduled to perform on stage, including Britney Spears and Nick Jonas. Their presence, along with many others, will ensure that literally millions across the country will be glued to their TV sets as MTV airs one of cable’s most iconic television events of the year.