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2021 VMAs Gets Lowest Ratings Ever, But Was a Social Media Smash

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For the first time in the award show’s history, less than a million people watched the 2021 Video Music Awards on MTV. The ratings dip brought the 2021 VMAs — held last weekend in Brooklyn, N.Y. — to an all-time low of 900,000 viewers on MTV, though overall viewership was several million thanks to the ceremony being aired on 13 channels in total.

Before the “M” in MTV ceased to stand for “music,” the VMAs was a gigantic ratings spectacle for decades. The awards show racked up its highest rating in 2011 with 12.4 million viewers tuning in, beating its previous record of 11.95 million in 2002.

The 2011 Video Music Awards gave MTV their biggest audience in the channel’s history, but 10 years later, a fractured media landscape, dwindling interest in award shows, and MTV turning into the Ridiculousness network has taken a toll on the VMAs.

Viewership for Sunday’s VMAs dropped 31 percent from last year when 1.3 million people watched the annual ceremony on MTV. The 2021 audience of 900,000 viewers represents the fifth straight year the VMAs have declined in viewers, even with the festivities airing across VH1, Comedy Central, BET, the CW and others.

The 2021 VMAs scored just over 600,000 viewers on the CW (down from 871,000 last year), 400,000 on Nick at Nite and BET combined, 186,000 on TV Land, 159,000 on the Paramount channel, and 149,000 on VH1.

According to Digital Music News, “just-released Nielsen viewership figures have revealed that the 2021 MTV Video Music Awards garnered a smaller audience than the 2020 edition,” making the 2021 ceremony the least-watched broadcast in MTV Video Music Awards history.

Despite a drop in viewership, the 2021 VMAs were very successful on social media, generating 38 million interactions. The social buzz for the 2021 VMAs — inflated by a near-brawl between MGK and former UFC champion Conor McGregor — actually beat the Super Bowl for the first time and is 2021’s top telecast so far in social media buzz.

Foo Fighters performed live and received the Global Icon award at the 2021 ceremony, which was hosted by pop star Doja Cat. Machine Gun Kelly performed live with Travis Barker, while Twenty One Pilots, Lil Nas X, Camila Cabello, Justin Bieber, Olivia Rodrigo and others rounded out the bill.

Award shows in general are losing viewers. The 2021 Golden Globes experienced a dramatic 63 percent drop compared to 2020 — 6.9 million viewers vs. 18.3 million.

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