12.4 million viewers is most for any show in network history

Sunday night’s MTV Video Music Awards drew a whopping 12.4 million viewers to become the most watched program in the net’s history.

In the 12-34 demo, according to Nielsen estimates, the kudocast was up 9% from 2010 with a 10.8 rating/8.5 million viewers. That’s the all-time record for any MTV telecast in the demo and the biggest aud in the demo in 2011 for any cabler.

Helping to bring so many eyeballs to the telecast were performances by top acts including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and Kanye West.

MTV led off the night at 7 p.m. with a new episode of “Jersey Shore” (8 million viewers). That was followed by the hourlong “VMA” pre-show, which attracted 7.3 million viewers, up 16% from last year.

That Hurricane Irene forced many East Coast residents to stay indoors may have elevated the total viewer totals higher than normal.

After the “Video Music Awards” at 11:30 p.m., the cabler aired the pilot of the Doug Liman exec-produced “I Just Want My Pants Back.” The pilot drew 5.1 million viewers and the net is hoping the sneak preview will entice auds to come back when the show officially debuts in January.

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