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Viacom Exec Bruce Gillmer Defends VMAs, Acknowledges ‘Damage’ to MTV Brand

"The show is still a bit out of left field, given U.S. MTV’s lack of music support over the last several years," said the head of music and talent in a rebuttal to criticism of the Aug. 20 broadcast.

A view of a neon Moon
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Viacom’s Head of Music and Talent for its Global Entertainment Group, Bruce Gillmer, refuses to take a hit from industry trade site Hits Daily Double.

In Hits’ coverage of the MTV Video Music Awards, which were held on Monday night, the outlet claimed that “the trophyfest hit a new nadir with 2.25m viewers and a 1.1 rating with viewers 18-49.” They insisted that “this latest decline in TV audience speaks volumes about the plummeting significance of the event on the cultural radar.”

Gillmer sent a statement in response to offer his take on the award show’s ratings and MTV’s relevance:

“We are pushing a huge boulder uphill and making slow but steady progress. The VMAs lost 50% of its linear TV audience between 2014 and this year, mostly between 2014-16. We’ve stopped the bleeding. We’ve also made huge gains — and completely dominate — the digital/social side, where our core lives. The show earned 200m streams! A better ‘TRL’ and overall music plan will help going forward; the show is still a bit out of left field, given U.S. MTV’s lack of music support over the last several years. We finally have support from the top of the organization to build this.”

Gillmer also took issue with Hits insisting that the VMAs lacked memorable moments, particularly “given the absence of top stars,” and their “assertion that Ariana Grande was the only act to see a meaningful uptick in the marketplace, pointing to gains by Nicki Minaj and Post Malone as well as some newer artists that ‘saw a respectable lift.'”

“I totally understand your perspective on the brand and its lackluster music presence,” Gillmer said.

“But we are working really hard to turn things around. The damage was worse than you can imagine, but we have the support and tools we need — finally.”