VMAs Ratings Down Despite Blue Ivy Surprise

Nicki Minaj, VMAs 2014.
Michael Buckner/Getty Images

Nicki Minaj performs onstage during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California. 

The 2014 MTV Video Music Awards was the most-watched show on television Sunday, pulling in 8.3 million total viewers, down 18 percent from the 10.1 million viewers who tuned in last year.

Based on Nielsen numbers, the original broadcast had 10.3 million viewers tuning in on MTV, MTV2, VH1 and Logo TV; when repeated airings are counted that number rises to 13.7 million.

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The 2014 edition, the 31st in MTV's history, featured an opening with Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Jessie J that included a costume mishap with Minaj, and a 16-minute performance from Beyonce, who received the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at the close.

Amy Doyle, MTV's evp of music and talent programming strategy and one of the executive producers of the VMAs, noted all went well with Minaj during a dress rehearsal.

"Everyone involved wants each performance to go off without a hitch," she tells Billboard. "When things go awry -- like last year our revolving stage got stuck right before we went on the air -- we improvise and make it work. In this case, we didn't have to amend the performance. Nicki handled the situation perfectly."

On social media, the VMAs were mentioned in 12.6 million tweets, according to Nielsen Social, and across Vine, Tumblr, Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, MTV saw nearly 63 million social interactions during the night of the show.

Much of the conversation following the telecast, which also included performances from Taylor Swift, Sam Smith and 5 Seconds of Summer, focused on the unannounced appearance of Jay Z with Beyonce and their daughter Blue Ivy. Hova's appearance was planned, Doyle says. The toddler's cameo was a surprise.

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It marked the second consecutive year in which the VMAs have handed over a sizable amount of time to an honoree for a single medley-based performance, giving Justin Timberlake 20 minutes in 2013, which included a 60-second 'N Sync reunion. Previously, lifetime achievement honors have been under five minutes.

"I think Beyonce's performance and Justin Timberlake's last year have been some of the best performances in the show's history," Doyle says. "We can't say with any certainty that it's something we'll do every year. Each year we re-invent the show so it feels uniquely fresh. If it fits with the creative vision of next year's show, we'll consider it."