Sunday, August 27, 2006
MTV awards show moves beyond TV screens

By Brian Garrity
Sunday, August 27, 2006; 10:58 AM

NEW YORK (Billboard) - When MTV broadcasts the Video Music Awards (VMAs) August 31, it will produce not one version of the show, but four.

In addition to the main awards show, which will run on the flagship channel, sister network MTV2 will air a specially tailored offering, featuring its own VJ hosts, dedicated commentary and special award presentation. At the same time, MTV's online portal, Overdrive, will provide a live feed of the scene backstage. And for those not sitting in front of a computer or TV, throughout the night MTV will deliver short highlight videoclips to mobile phone users.

"We're trying to create a simultaneous experience," MTV president Christina Norman says.

The notion of "screens" -- treating PCs, cell phones and iPods as places for programming much like TV -- has become a key concept in entertainment industry circles as executives try to keep up with consumers in the era of high-speed Internet connections and mobile entertainment.

With its strategy for its biggest night of the year, MTV is embracing the idea and attempting to be everywhere at once.

Last year, Overdrive users streamed clips from the VMA show more than 14.7 million times in the month after the broadcast; online programming wasn't available until after the show ended. Users could rewatch the show in its entirety, create playlists of their favorite segments and watch post-show coverage.

Recognizing that many of its viewers likely will already be instant messaging online or using a mobile phone while the awards are airing, MTV opted to offer more programming to complement the TV show, which last year attracted 14 million viewers age 12-34, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The expanded platform also offers a host of additional advertising opportunities for marketers, including JCPenney, Virgin Mobile, Acuvue, Chevrolet, Dodge, Herbal Essences, Pepsi and Taco Bell, all of which are spending a reported $4 million-$7 million for sponsorships.

Dave Sirulnick, executive producer of the 2006 VMAs, says, "It has been conceived as a multiplatform awards show, as opposed to it being a TV show with some ancillary content."