MTV is currently working with numerous government and health agencies in hopes of mounting its annual Video Music Awards live from New York this August, Variety can report exclusively.
The show is eyeing an Aug. 30 broadcast date from Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for its 36th edition of the VMAs, where MTV honors the best in the music video medium and features performances from top-charting artists. The plans come as New York City attempts to rebound from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, amid ongoing lockdowns and social-distance orders.
“We’re exploring with government officials, the medical community and key stakeholders on how to safely hold the 2020 VMAs at Barclays Center on August 30th,” an MTV spokesperson tells Variety. “The health of everyone involved is our number one priority. Additionally, we are working on several contingency plans to bring music’s biggest night to audiences everywhere.”
It would mark a return to the Barclays Center for the VMAs, which were held at the venue in 2013 shortly after its opening. Notable winners from 2019 included video of the year for Taylor Swift’s “You Need to Calm Down” and artist of the year to Ariana Grande.
While a traditional physical production is the goal, according to one source familiar with the plans, the network is keeping safety top of mind and exploring virtual performances and an audience-free show, among other contingency plans.
MTV sent out save the date notices to top agents and talent reps this week, indicating the program would move forward in its traditional format. As the industry waits and watches for decisions from top awards franchises like the Academy Awards and the Emmys, MTV owner Viacom has been tinkering with its branded live events.
Sister property BET, for instance, will move forward with a virtual edition of its eponymous awards on June 28. Celebrating the network’s 40th anniversary, and the show’s 20 years on the air, top stars in black entertainment, sports and philanthropy will appear via “innovative techniques and artist-generated content,” Variety reported last week.
The three-day BET Experience, an ecosystem of events in Los Angeles that serve as a lead-up to the big night, was called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic and is set to return in 2021.
As the domestic epicenter of COVID-19, New York City is grappling with closures in every sector of public life, including entertainment staples like concert venues, sporting events, restaurants, Broadway and annual gatherings like June’s pride parade.