MTV Awards Get Record Viewers With Winehouse, Spears Tribute

Viacom Inc.’s MTV “Video Music Awards,” featuring a tribute to the late Amy Winehouse, attracted 12.4 million viewers, the network’s largest audience ever.

The show, held at the L.A. Live entertainment complex in Los Angeles, drew 9 percent more viewers than last year, New York-based MTV said today in an e-mailed statement. The 2-hour, 27-minute ceremony started at 9 p.m. New York time.

This year’s program, which honored pop star Britney Spears with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, aired after a new episode of the network’s top-rated “Jersey Shore,” one of cable’s most-watched series. MTV, which reports live feedback from viewers posting on Twitter and Facebook, featured performances by Beyonce Knowles, Adele Adkins and a duet by Jay-Z and Kanye West.

“Every one of the artists delivered beyond our expectations,” Stephen Friedman, president of MTV, said in an interview. “What we saw was each artist raise the bar.”

U.K. comedian Russell Brand and Bruno Mars, who performed Winehouse’s hit “Valerie,” honored the singer on the program. Winehouse was found dead at age 27 in her London home on July 24. Police are still investigating.

Viacom, controlled by Chairman Sumner Redstone, rose $1.70, or 3.7 percent, to $47.28 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The Class B shares have gained 19 percent this year.

MTV’s pre-award show telecast, featuring interviews with presenters and nominees, drew 7.3 million viewers, a 16 percent increase from a year ago, the network said in the statement.

‘Royal Couple’

Knowles, who married Jay-Z in 2008, revealed on the program’s so-called black carpet that the couple is expecting their first child. After completing her performance later in the show, Beyonce rubbed her belly and the camera cut to Jay-Z and West celebrating in the audience.

“Beyonce and Jay-Z are our royal couple of music,” Friedman said.

Lady Gaga, the pop star known for her eccentric outfits, came to the show in drag as an alter ego named Jo Calderone, who claims the singer dumped him years ago.

The show, which was produced without a host for the second time, generated traffic on social networks, further fueling viewership.

MTV tracked more than 3 million posts on during the award show, about 1 million more than during last year’s program, the network said in the statement.

“Our programming and content is the conversation, and social media -- whether it’s Twitter or Facebook -- is the telephone,” Friedman said. Social media “needs to be fluid and integrated and casual because that’s how our audience fluidly moves between screens.”

The awards show also drew 1.9 million visitors to the MTV website, a third more than last year, and the show generated 2.3 million video streams, MTV said.

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