2021 MTV VMAs Viewership Plummets to Record Low Despite Performances From Big-Name Artists

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The 2021 MTV VMAs logo. Photo Credit: MTV Viacom

The 2021 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) were unable to avoid the years-running viewership decline that most every award show has suffered as of late. The ceremony’s television audience plummeted to yet another all-time low this past Sunday, according to newly released data.

Last year’s MTV Video Music Awards attracted 1.315 million viewers on MTV itself as well as 6.4 million television watchers across each of the ViacomCBS stations (Paramount Network and Comedy Central among them) that also aired the happening live. (Within the broader ViacomCBS total, viewers on the CW reportedly numbered about 860,000.) The record-low figures reflected material viewership falloffs from 2019’s 1.93 million VMAs viewers on MTV and 6.8 million viewers across all simulcasting ViacomCBS stations.

Now, however, just-released Nielsen viewership figures have revealed that the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards garnered a smaller audience than the 2020 edition, as the CW viewership dipped to 606,000, per ProgrammingInsider, along with a 0.2 rating (0.9 on MTV itself) in the coveted 18-49 demographic.

As a pertinent aside, the 2021 VMAs ceremony was the second to broadcast on the CW, with the 2020 VMAs having been the first. Also worth mentioning is that the 2021 VMAs, despite the across-the-board award-show viewership decline, sold out of advertising airtime, according to Ad Age (the corresponding report is available only to paid subscribers).

Furthermore, the 2021 MTV VMAs telecast attracted approximately 900,000 viewers on MTV proper, according to ShowBiz411 – down nearly a third from 2020, while watchers on other ViacomCBS networks elevated the total to somewhere in the ballpark of three million, per the same source.

Needless to say, the return of an in-person audience and performances from commercially successful acts such as Lil Nas X, Olivia Rodrigo, Justin Bieber, and Machine Gun Kelly – in addition to a shocking red-carpet scuffle involving the latter – weren’t enough to help the show turn back the clock, ratings-wise. For reference, the 2015 MTV VMAs brought five million MTV viewers and nearly 10 million total watchers, down from 11.4 million MTV viewers in 2010.

Nevertheless, several of the aforementioned 2021 VMAs performances appeared to post solid viewership figures on YouTube and social media, and ViacomCBS stated that the event’s “total minutes consumed” improved from 1.29 billion in 2020 to 1.4 billion.

It’s unclear what exactly the overarching audience-related trends mean for the long-term viability of award-show telecasts – with the latest editions of the Billboard Music Awards, the Grammys, and the BET Awards alike having sustained double-digit year-over-year viewership declines. The trend, far from being limited to the music industry, is more apparent in terms of visual-media award shows’ audiences, possibly because the corresponding ceremonies don’t benefit from live performances.

14 Responses

  1. Bob

    Low ratings for programs, including award shows, sporting events, etc. have all taken hits since Covid began. It’s not political. It’s not about any specific thing except people being distracted and having other priorities.

      • Bob

        No. You be specific. Try contributing something other than questions or prodding.

    • MTV Get Off The Air

      Nobody watches MTV anymore. Award shows are all fake. There’s a million other channels and services. The political posturing didn’t help, all the kneeling for criminals. Or somebody like the Weeknd acting like a baby because he didn’t get nominated for and win every Grammy. They gave a Grammy to Milli Vanilli. Why would you want a Grammy? Too much free cocaine.

      • Paul

        Actually, there are millions of people who watch MTV still – just the demographics and programming focus have changed. You may not watch it, or people you know may not watch it, but that’s probably due to the fact that you have gotten older.

  2. Just saying...

    Dylan, you really should really cut back on your use of paragraph lead-ins. Do we really need the ‘As a pertinent aside, ‘And needless to say, ‘ultimately,’ building upon the previous point’ etc. etc.

    Unless you’re getting paid by the word, in which I get it.

    • Idiot Detector

      Everyone’s a critic. Where’s your blog? How many things have you written recently? What a buffoon you are to post stylistic criticism. Just saying. SMH

  3. Tom Hendricks

    The Big Three Labels that control the music industry through ownership, or pressure, or parent company, or lawsuits, can’t get a hit song, and won’t break new acts!
    They’ve got to go!
    Time for this media to help save the industry and call them out. That’s courage I don’t see.
    Thousands of musicians in the peaceful music revolution are showing courage, but corporate media has no freedom from pressure of these 3.

  4. Divoc

    Digital Music News doesn’t allow comments on propaganda pieces that they know will receive a ton of negative comments.

  5. PR

    The dip in viewership is because of VMA playing favourites to western “white” artists and ignoring BTS. They pissed off ARMY who are the biggest mass revenye generator. ARMY boycott obviously means it will be flop show

  6. hotkarl

    I think everyone changed channels after Madonna showed off her decrepit body