On Sunday the MTV EMAs return to London for the first time in more than 20 years, giving us a chance to reflect on arguably the most rapid period of change we’ve witnessed in media and entertainment, says Russell Samuel, vice president, creative and integrated marketing,Viacom Velocity International
So what’s changed. Rather than Alexandra Palace, we’ll be broadcasting live from The SSE Arena, Wembley. Rather than Robbie Williams it will be Rita Ora who’ll host. And rather than The Fugees, Kula Shaker and Simply Red, we’ll enjoy performances from the likes of Stormzy, Liam Payne and Travis Scott – none of whom were even at school the last time the MTV EMAs were in town.
But it’s not in the styles, staging and stars where the most important changes have taken place; for me the biggest change is driven by the audience and our connection with them. The MTV EMAs today have a duality that their predecessor didn’t – one of scale and proximity. They are bigger and broader, and yet more intimate and personalised, than ever before.
In 1996 the MTV EMAs aired on seven MTV channels globally. On Sunday the show will run across its global network of over 60 channels, in over 170 countries; as well as free to air and terrestrial channels within Viacom International Media Network’s portfolio, including Channel 5. We’re reaching more audiences than ever before, but at the same time delivering a more localised and resonant experience for viewers, with broadcasts in local language and local presenters and awards integrated into the show. Scale and proximity.
In 1996 the MTV EMAs were linear only. Today we tell the event’s story across every screen and every platform, from social live streams and stories, to VR and AR experiences within our app. Doing so adds further scale to our TV audience in the form of hundreds of millions of views. At the same time, it gives fans a proximity to the awards that wasn’t possible 20 years ago, as they talk about, influence and contribute to the action on the night, from Red Carpet to backstage. This helps make the MTV EMAs one of the most talked about nights on the global entertainment calendar – and that’s a crucial point.
When Bryan Adams and The Smashing Pumpkins were rocking Alexandra Palace, brands too – more generally – were still playing to a relatively captive audience. Fast-forward to today and fans have become untethered from top-down content and messaging; and in a world where they are firmly in control and harder to reach, brands need to earn their attention, making entertainment essential social currency for anyone wanting to get close to and meaningfully connect with them.
This year 19 international and local sponsors around the world are on board, from Aussie Hair in the UK, to Mercedes in China, Sisley in Italy, O2 in Germany and Seat in Mexico.
The longevity of the event is testament to the enduring power of entertainment in engaging audiences around the world. What’s changed is the means by which we can and must connect with those audiences – more broadly and yet more deeply than ever before. Scale and proximity.