If you thought Australian television ratings were a mass of meaningless numbers and dodgy mathematics, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Nanjing Night Net

According to the press release, this year’s MTV Video Music Awards were a triumph of eyeballs, with streaming audiences soaring.

Just how high, no one can quite tell you, but more worrying is how much the annual telecast’s traditional TV audience has shrunk.

This year, “roadblocked” across 11 Viacom-owned channels, it drew just 6.5 million viewers.

That’s basically one third down when compared to last year, when it was roadblocked across 10 channels.

In television scheduling, “roadblocking” is when a network simulcasts the same program across multiple channels; it is intended to pump up the numbers by pulling in audiences from other channels who might not usually switch across.

What is worrying about those numbers is not that they reflect a migration either away from traditional television and towards streaming, or away from MTV’s over-baked awards nights in general, but they reflect a much stronger decline than the broader market.

There is no doubt that television audiences are migrating from linear services – that is, TV channels – and towards streaming services.

But despite the hype, most broadcast services are holding their own, thank you very much, or reporting more modest declines.

To shed a third of your TV audience in a 12-month period is disastrous.

The great news, according to the spin doctors at MTV, is that the telecast’s new streaming audience was soaring.

And the telecast created enormous noise on social media, accounting for 90 per cent of all TV-specific social media posts and holding first place as the “top global trending hashtag” on the Twitter platform for 13 hours.

Which sounds a little like a party with one really, really noisy guy in the corner who dominates everyone’s attention but is largely forgotten by the time everyone has ordered their Ubers and gone home.

There was also a 70 per cent increase in streams via the official app and website, with a total of 62.8 million video “starts” reported.

That sounds a bit more promising: digital eyeballs are, after all, the same as terrestrial eyeballs.

But a start means only exactly that: the commencement of the video stream when a viewer presses the “play” button; how engaged they are, and how long they continue to watch is not clear from the numbers.

A sexier number was streaming via Facebook, which was up 938 per cent.

Crunching the numbers over the longer term is even more worrying.

Back in 2014, MTV roadblocked the awards across just three channels,and still managed to pull in 10.1 million viewers in total.

And in 2013, back when roadblocking was just something that council workers did to disrupt your drive to work of a morning, they managed to pull 10.1 million viewers off just one channel.

Imagine that? One channel? It sounds positively medieval.

The upshot is this: if you expressed those ratings as a line graph, they would resemble the cross section of a black diamond trail in a downhill ski resort.

Anyone for schnapps?

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.


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