VMAs BEAMING BACK
TO BIG APPLE


Someone better pop out of a wedding cake.

This morning (4/24) MTV announced that on 9/10, the Video Music Awards will be returning to New York, almost 40 years to the day Madonna titillated early cable adopters by rolling around the stage in a like-a-virginal white dress during the very first edition at Radio City Music Hall. This year's show will be held at UBS Arena near the Queens and Long Island border, following two years at Prudential Center in Newark.

"We're excited to bring this year's VMAs to UBS Arena, one of the country's newest and most cutting-edge venues," said Bruce Gillmer (pictured), Paramount's president of Music, Music Talent, Programming & Events and Paramount+'s chief content officer, Music. "Celebrating one of music's biggest nights with the incredible, robust New York-area fans is something we've been looking forward to since the moment last year's show ended."

"It's an honor to host MTV and the VMAs at UBS Arena," said UBS Arena SVP of Programming Mark Shulman. "This is the culmination of bringing a world-class event to a venue that offers state-of-the-art capabilities and the best in fan amenities."

Gillmer, who got his start at MTV in 1987 (big VMAs winner that year: Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer") and now oversees music specials for CBS, pulled himself away from watching his 4,577th NCIS rerun to speak to us.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the VMAs. How is the network going to celebrate?

Well, the first thing is that we're going back to New York. We'd been at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, for the last couple of years, and they treated us very well, but we got an offer from the UBS Arena in Elmont that we couldn't refuse. It's one of the newer arenas in the U.S. and very cutting-edge, constructed with music in mind [as well as hockey]. The venue is perfect for us because we tend to house a lot of performances, anywhere between 16 and 20, which is super-challenging in an arena built strictly for sports. But UBS has all kinds of new capabilities because it's purpose-built for music.

As far as how the show will celebrate the 40th anniversary, there are specifics I can't divulge, but I can tell you that in a typically smart-ass way, we will be making references to some of the most iconic moments in the past 40 years. We're already having a lot of fun digging up those moments.

It must be something of a relief that awards shows in general are trending up, ratings-wise.

There's definitely been an uptick since we're out of COVID. The Grammys were up this year, as were most of the big award shows. Last year's VMAs were up considerably. We have a metric called TMC, or Total Minutes Consumed, measuring minutes and consumption across every platform, and last year was the largest ever for the VMAs (1.82 billion), up nearly 15% year over year. And ratings for VMA viewership on MTV in the 18-34 demo were up 118%. Across all our networks, we had nearly 4 million total viewers for the show, and we intend to grow that.

In addition to the post-COVID return to normal, why else do you think last year's show resonated?

One reason is that we fell in love with Latin music, as did much of the world. We had Karol G, Peso Pluma, Anitta and, of course, Shakira. Bad Bunny and J Balvin performed the year before. Those artists bring so much to the table in terms of super colorful and dynamic performances, and they each have very passionate fan bases. And we had a great partnership with UniMás and Univision, which made the show available to our most global audience ever.

It also couldn't have hurt to have Taylor Swift in the house.

Not at all. Her enthusiasm for the show definitely provides a nice lift, without question.

Generally speaking, are you pro- or anti-awards-show host?

We prefer having a host, so long as it's the right one. We want somebody who's really enthusiastic about it and also appreciates the fast pace of the VMAs.

Following the departure of longtime CBS exec Jack Sussman in February, you're now overseeing CBS music specials, working with Amy Reisenbach, president of CBS Entertainment, and Mackenzie Mitchell, VP of Specials, Music and Live events, dually reporting to you. What synergy can CBS and the Paramount networks bring to a music project?

One great example is the work we've done with Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett. When they were releasing what turned out to be their last record together, we did a massive first-time overall talent deal across CBS, MTV and Paramount that included CBS' One Last Time primetime concert special shot at Radio City and an MTV Unplugged episode—their last TV performance together—where we pulled out individual music videos that MTV premiered globally. And we're putting the finishing touches right now on this incredible documentary called The Lady & the Legend, the story of Gaga and Tony's mutual admiration and inspiration, that will roll out exclusively on Paramount+ later this year.


Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett; Anitta

We've got a very robust music ecosystem and this unique global scale. We just came off of another successful CMT Awards, which aired on CBS. We had somewhere in the neighborhood of 5.5 million viewers on linear, with double-digit growth across key CBS demos and a big uptick on the digital side for the most social views and engagements in show history. We aired Billy Joel's The 100th concert from MSG, not once but twice! The two airings had roughly 10 million viewers, which are really strong numbers. CBS will air the American Music Awards this year for the first time. We have Nashville's Big Bash on New Year's Eve. And of course, we have music's highest honors, the Grammys, and the two annual music specials associated with the Grammys. Not to mention the MTV EMAs airing on Paramount+ and MTV globally in November.

It's great to have everything under one umbrella and under one team and to have so many different platforms through which we can support artists and connect to fans. Music really lights up the scoreboard for us.

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