Award Shows Hit Sour Notes At Times For Nets

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Music-themed awards shows can give cable networks a big ratings push, and Sunday’s star-studded MTV Video Music Awards show shouldn’t be an exception.

 Last year’s VMAs averaged 8.4 million viewers for MTV and played well among the network’s target 12 to 34 demo. With a tribute to the late Michael Jackson on the docket – Michael’s little sister Janet is scheduled to appear – along with performances from Beyonce, Lady Gaga and Green Day - the show is sure to be one of the most watched cable programs of the year.

But as we’ve seen recently, live award shows can also cause some consternation for cable networks airing them and for networks that happen to have stars performing in such shows.

BET’s June BET Awards show was the network’s most watched show in its history,  drawing more than 10.6 million viewers. Along with various performer tributes to Jackson, who passed away three days prior to the show’s June 28 telecast, the BET Awards 2009 event also featured a performance by hip hop artists Drake, Lil Wayne and the Young Money crew that drew a flurry of negative responses from viewers.

The artists performed the hyper-sexualized hit song Every Girl on the live program while several underage girls danced onstage. The performance forced BET days later to issue a statement apologizing to viewers and denouncing the performance, adding that “elements of the performance were unplanned and should not have happened.”

Disney Channel chose not to comment on a much talked about performance by its mega star Miley Cyrus during the August Teen Choice Awards. The 16-year old Hannah Montana star set off a firestormover whether her musical performance at the show – for which she wore short shorts and arguably straddled a pole — was inappropriate for the tween idol.   

Even past MTV Video Music Awards have walked the fine line between artistic expression and controversy [Remember the Madonna/Britney Spears liplock?].

Who knows if anything outrageous will transpire during this year’s VMAs event. But one thing’s for sure … both viewers and network executives will be watching.

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