Lisa de Moraes
Lisa de Moraes
The TV Column

Audience tunes out American Music Awards

Despite rolling out Justin Bieber acceptance speeches about his haters and his mom, Nicki Minaj in pink wig and fake snow, more Taylor Swift ring kissing, Christina Aguilera, Carly Rae Jepsen, Kelly Clarkson, Usher, Carrie Underwood, Ke$ha, Pink, Pitbull, Linkin Park, No Doubt and the triumphant return of MC Hammer in a “Gangman Style” dance-off with PSY, the “American Music Awards” suffered its smallest audience in its 40-year history Sunday night.

The AMA plunged more than 20 percent among 18- to 49-year-old viewers who are preferred by advertisers, as well as by 20 percent among viewers overall. When the dust settled, early ratings indicated that the show was watched by 9.6 million viewers — with not much hope for a substantial spike from DVR viewing.

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As recently as 2009, the show was clocking more than 14 million fans.

But the AMA isn’t the only music-industry trophy show that’s taken a battering.

Earlier this month, the Country Music Awards attracted its smallest audience ever.

And in September, the VMA plunged from its biggest audience ever (in 2011) to the second-smallest crowd in its history, ahead only of the ’06 VMA, which logged 5.8 million viewers between 8 p.m. and nearly the next morning. That 2006 number was so bad, it caused Viacom-owned MTV to order the show de-bloated to a two-hour-ish program.

And just this past Friday, the Grammys salute to Whitney Houston, while still winning its 10 p.m. time slot, only logged about 7 million viewers, trailing “CSI: NY” (9.6 million) and “Undercover Boss” (9 million).

TV viewers, it would appear, are approaching the saturation point when it comes to music popsters.

Not coincidentally, many of the big acts on the AMA show were repeat offenders.

Bieber, who picked up the AMA Artist of the Year award, was, among other TV appearances, a guest X-ecutioner on a recent round of Fox’s “X Factor.” And, consider yourself warned: He’s scheduled to sweep Oprah off her feet on OWN’s “Oprah’s Next Chapter” on Sunday.

AMA fave rap/hip hop-artist winner Minaj, who performed both a solo and a duet with Bieber on Sunday’s trophy show, has been getting more than her fair share of TV time, owing to her audition-round smackdown with Mariah Carey on “American Idol.”

Meanwhile, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting Swift, who took home her fifth consecutive AMA for fave country female artist.

Here are just some of the former Kennedy-in-training country crooner’s TV appearances since mid-October:

Oct. 18: CMT VJ for a Day: Taylor Swift

Oct. 22: “Good Morning America” interview/live concert

Oct. 22: GAC’s “Top 20 Country Countdown” interview, Part 1

Oct. 22: “Entertainment Tonight”: Taylor Swift Week

Oct. 23: “GMA” live concert

Oct. 23: “Late Show With David Letterman”: interview/performance

Oct. 24: “The View” interview/performance

Oct. 25: “Ellen DeGeneres Show” interview/performance

Oct. 26: “Katie” interview/performance

Oct. 26: GAC’s “Top 20 Country Countdown” interview, Part 2

Oct. 26: “20/20: All Access Nashville with Katie Couric” interview

Oct. 30: “Dancing With the Stars” results-show performance

Nov.1: Country Music Association Awards performance

Nov. 11: MTV Europe Music Awards performance

Nov.11: “VH1 Storytellers: Taylor Swift”

Nov. 15: “X Factor” results-show performance

Nov. 18: American Music Awards performance

You’d think the AMA would be ratings slump-proof. That’s certainly what Dick Clark had in mind when he designed the made-for-TV event 40 years ago. Nominees are selected based on sales and airplay; fans choose the winners by voting online.

One TV-industry programming exec contacted for discussion referred to the excess as causing a sort of “brain freeze.”

Another exec conceded that there are too many shows featuring the same pop stars performing the same tunes too many times. Yet another exec suggested that the lousy ratings were just part of the natural ebb and flow and that we’re in a “down cycle” — until the next Bieber or Rihanna comes along.

But for managers of the current models, the ratings are troublesome, given how they’ve come to count on this fourth-quarter TV exposure to give their clients that extra “oomph,” as one exec described it, at the start of the holiday sales season.

It seems you can no longer air any hodgepodge of disparate pop performances with an overabundance of laser lights and bad audio mixing and attract the kinds of crowds you once could.

In a telling development, the AMA wins for Katy Perry for fave pop/rock female artist, Beyonce for soul/R&B female artist, Adele for adult contemporary artist and Shakira for fave Latin artist were not televised.

Those artists had taken a pass.

 
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