MTV EMA 2011 Ratings Reached New High, Fuelled By Multi-Screen Strategy

Viacom (NYSE: VIA) says that this year’s MTV European Music Awards (EMAs) received their highest audience ratings ever in the UK, attracting a total audience of more than 306,000 people on the evening of Sunday 6 November.

The network says there was more to this than a line-up of big stars, though. The televised awards were complemented by activity online – EMA-related page views on MTV’s UK website were up 530% year-on-year to nearly 500,000 – and in MTV’s mobile and tablet apps, with downloads up 159% year-on-year, although Viacom hasn’t said how many that is.

Gary Ellis, vice president of international digital media at Viacom International Media Networks, says that this year’s event aimed to make more of an impact globally, through its use of social media and apps, and new categories like Best Worldwide Act and Biggest Fans.

“We wanted to tap into the global nature of digital media and expand the remit of the awards, and that worked out very well,” he says. “We had 158 million votes this year, up 236% compared to last year, and a lot of that was driven by those new categories, although we saw increases across the board.”

One important change this year was the launch of mobile websites for the EMAs optimised for iPhone, Android and tablets, sitting alongside native apps. Ellis says that 141% year-on-year growth in the number of unique visitors to the website globally shows the value of this two-pronged app strategy.

“In the past we’ve had a WAP site, which was pretty strong, but we wanted to up the game and go for richer mobile web versions of the site. People are expecting a full website experience now, no matter what device they’re accessing it from,” says Ellis.

“We have also been watching closely the huge sales of tablet computers, and know that people are accessing websites from those devices. [Native] apps are still a priority for us – we had another app this year with more content and video integrated into it – but if you don’t want to download the app, we want to make sure people get the best experience they can.”

Viacom also made everything more social this year, enabling fans to log in to the EMAs website using their Facebook or Twitter accounts, to make it easier to share articles and content from the site to those social networks. The site also sported some gamification features thanks to a partnership between Viacom and startup Bunchball.

People earned points for watching videos, reading articles, voting and other actions on the EMAs site leading up to the event, partly to try to win tickets by topping the Bunchball-powered high score tables. The points system also tied into a group voting feature, which was the only way to vote in the Biggest Fans category.

“It was all about increasing engagement with the content,” says Ellis. “Time (NYSE: TWX) spent increased, the overall engagement increased, and whether or not the activity happened on a PC, a smartphone or a tablet, everything connected to all the social networks and with each other. We absolutely want everything to be as integrated, shareable and connected as possible.”

During the awards ceremony itself, people continued to use these various devices while watching at home. Ellis makes a point of noting that the higher ratings were driven by the digital activity around the awards: an example of these other devices supporting television rather than cannibalising it.

“Our ideal scenario is to have someone watching the show on their TV, while also having their computer open or their smartphone or tablet to hand interacting around the show, the host and other viewers,” says Ellis.

“Second-stream and co-viewing is very important to us. People want to talk about the show together and watch it together, whether virtually or physically. We want to create the opportunities for that to happen.”

This article originally appeared in MediaGuardian.