Britney Spears' train wreck at Sunday's Video Music Awards was a ratings boon for
MTV, but perhaps more important, Monday was the highest traffic day ever on the beleaguered cable network's Web site.
MTV said Tuesday that the show drew 7.1 million TV viewers, a 23% rise over last year. It was the highest-rated cable program of the year among people aged 12 to 34, evidence that the channel's hyped strategy of airing the ceremony once, rather than many times, paid off.
The solid showing came despite -- or perhaps because of -- a comeback performance from Spears that has been universally celebrated as a disaster. All the media attention garnered by the former pop tart's bomb led to huge traffic on MTV.com, with the site posting record numbers in both unique visitors and video streams.
A video clip of Spears' performance earlier was the most-viewed clip on
popular site YouTube. But users recently clicking on the link were informed that the video was no longer available for viewing due to legal action brought by Viacom against Google that bars it from using its content on its site.
"The videos uploaded to YouTube were done so without authorization," says Viacom spokesman Jeremy Zweig.
While Viacom's strategy of disallowing the use of its content on YouTube may have boosted traffic on its own site, it did little to stop millions of consumers from easily accessing the Spears debacle through Google's video hub this week.
That said, MTV took new steps in its VMA telecast to drive traffic across other technology platforms that have gained traction with its target demographic, such as handheld devices and personal computers.
For instance, it shortened the program and added teaser clips from suite parties that invited viewers to see more on MTV.com.
Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce says that while MTV has lost a portion of it audience to the Web, the awards show offered a glimpse of how it can adapt to the digital age in order to monetize its content.
"The worst is behind MTV at this point in terms of ratings, and this shows that they're starting to get a handle on the technology shifts that are taking place in the teenage demographic," says Joyce.