Monday night’s MTV Video Music Awards show brought its small moments of charm and amusement — but on the whole, failed to captivate. The show drew a mere 5.23 million viewers on MTV and simulcasts on several other Viacom networks, according to an estimate from Nielsen Wednesday morning. That’s an all-time low since Nielsen started tracking the ceremony’s viewership in 1994.
Viewership figures from the past few years show a bleak and obvious trend: 10.3 million in 2014, 9.8 million in 2015, 6.5 million in 2016, 5.5 million in 2017, meaning the show managed to lose half of its audience in three years. (Read more on why the numbers have slipped so drastically.) But to MTV’s credit, while the ratings from this year’s show continue its decline, the decrease was not nearly as extreme this year as it was in the last few. Part of that is likely due to MTV moving the event from its usual Sunday night slot to Monday night, where it faced less competition with other entertainment programming.
The network also continues to tout VMAs’ digital audience, which it seems to define as people engaging with any form of media that has to do with the show: According to Billboard, MTV estimates that there were “some 141.6 million video streams of content related to the awards show for the past month,” which is twice the 75 million that it tallied up last year.
The VMAs’ decline isn’t totally unique to the show, for prime-time ratings this week show that the four biggest networks (ABC, Fox, NBC, CBS) all saw 13 percent fewer viewers than for the same week in 2017, indicating that cord-cutting millennials are still moving away from cable television in general at a rapid pace. But on Monday night, ABC’s “World News Tonight” still got 8 million viewers and CBS’s “CBS Evening News” saw 5.6 million, meaning more people literally decided to watch the news than the event that was once proclaimed the most exciting evening in music — and is now largely thought of as another stale parade.