Sometimes, these contests just aren’t fair. The good old Emmys, the TV Academy and this year’s host network, NBC, all lined up the most fiercest lineup ever they imagined of social-media goodness for Monday night’s broadcast of TVs top awards. And as far as social-media impact goes, they did pretty well, according to Nielsen’s Twitter TV ratings, with the total unique audience up 6 percent from last year, when CBS hosted edition 65 on a September Sunday.
But those numbers were nothing compared to Sunday night’s Music Video Awards on basic-cabler MTV, which doesn’t even run music videos anymore (they largely leave that to YouTube). The VMAs shook off Emmy’s competition like a poorly glued rhinestone on a dancer’s jiggling rump during one of the VMAs’ many music interludes. The results weren’t even close. Here are the relevant big numbers:
Unique Audience Reached: ’14 Emmys – 8.8 million people ...’13 Emmys – 8.3 million … VMAs – 10.9 million
Total tweets about the show: ’14 Emmys – 1.1 million … ‘13 Emmys – 925,000 …. VMAs – 12.6 million
This was more than a walk over. It was a tweet over. Admittedly, the VMAs were on a Sunday night (better for TV viewing), and they’re almost custom built for social geekery, with a young-skewing audience of music superfans (Twitter’s most ardent subculture) hyperventilating about every twerkish gyration of the opening music performance, or the relative fantastic-ness of Jay Z‘s daughter mimicking her mother Beyonce‘s onstage performance.
It’s also safe to presume that the home, oh so long ago, of Total Request Live might have developed some newer-generation moves in the time since then to reach Millennials where they live and tweet. It’s equally possible those are moves that the TV Academy and crusty old NBC haven’t quite internalized yet (never mind their much older audience).
And of course, NBC and the academy can point to those other Nielsen numbers, with TV viewership ratings the second highest in the last eight years. The best news for the TV Academy: Sherlock won, a bunch. Its stars, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, are social-media icons, even if the fans’ intense focus on their characters’ alleged secret gay relationship borders on the creepy (do a run through the hashtag #painlock on Tumblr sometime if you’d really like a deep dive).
Just to be clear, the Emmys have never been a big horse in the social-media race compared to other awards shows. In the last TV season (Sept. 1, 2013 to May 25), the 2013 Emmys were eighth on the top 10 specials list for Twitter TV ratings. That put them right behind the president’s State of the Union speech, an event not known for its twerking.
The Oscars, Grammys, Golden Globes, American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards and MTV Movie Awards all did better than POTUS and Emmy last TV season. Oh, and that Super Bowl thing? 25.3 million tweets, to an unduplicated audience of 15.3 million people. Game over.
For instance, the top three most-posted fan clips from the night’s proceedings included two with Breaking Bad principals, according to RelishMix, consultants who track social-media heat around film and TV properties.
The No. 1 clip was that very amusing Bryan Cranston kiss/mild mauling he administered when Julia Louis-Dreyfus came up to collect her Comedy Best Actress statue. The bit tied back to a funny interaction the two did while onstage earlier as presenters (based on their shared time onscreen two decades ago on Seinfeld). It was easily one of the best bits of what was a pretty good show all around. Here’s just one version of that video (this one already has 290,000 views on YouTube)
The No. 3 fan-posted video, in a bit of a surprise, was the acceptance speech from Anna Gunn, Cranston’s Breaking Bad co-star. Sandwiched in between, no surprise at all, was the emotionally wrenching and deeply touching remembrance of Robin Williams by his long-time friend and fellow comic Billy Crystal.
“The Julia-Bryan kiss was the No.1 viral gift of this year’s Emmys for fan postings on YouTube. A creative shot that worked perfectly,” said RelishMix CEO Marc Karzen. “This was followed by Billy Crystal’s very touching tribute to Robin Williams, which will continue to be shared with re-posts and views over the week.”
RelishMix also broke out which nominated shows saw the biggest jump in likes for their Facebook page, for the month ahead of the Emmys. Social-media powerhouse Game of Thrones added 239,000 followers to bring its Facebook presence to 13.4 million likes, an impressive number (though far behind that 100-million-strong following for Shakira, speaking of epic rump shakers in the music business).
But guess which show was second in Facebook “lift” the past month? Yep, Breaking Bad, which jumped 191,000 likes to 10.2 million in the past month. Not bad for a show that went off the air a year ago. But as Karzen points out, the rising numbers present “a clear road map” for Netflix and other syndicators as they market the show’s old episodes for years to come.
Karzen was also rather forgiving of the TV Academy and NBC on their second-place finish for the week’s awards shows.
“It’s hard to compete with #VMA2014 from Sunday with an audience that won’t put down their devices and a show that’s packed with #omg moments,” said Karzen. “But the 360(-degree) experience continues to build for all live events and scripted programs are taking more and more risks to keep feeding their fans.”