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MTV, Universal Call Truce in Digital Rights Battle for VMAs

Talks With Vevo Still at an Impasse, but Label Gives MTV.com Temporary Break so Viewers Can Vote on Videos

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- MTV and Universal Music Group have kissed and made up -- temporarily.

Justin Bieber is a nominee in the Best New Artist category for this year's MTV VMA's.
Justin Bieber is a nominee in the Best New Artist category for this year's MTV VMA's.
Viacom-owned MTV.com recently lost its rights to stream videos from Universal artists such as Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Kanye West when their deal expired in July. The two companies couldn't agree on digital-advertising terms.

But according to MTV, Universal has provisionally allowed the website to publish its artists' videos strictly for the purpose of the Video Music Awards, to be held in Los Angeles on Sept. 21.

"They did grant us digital rights," MTV Networks Senior VP Jeannie Kedas said of Universal. "[I] think they recognize the value of MTV's VMA's for their artists."

Indeed, the awards show is perhaps the premier event for popular music, a necessary stage for every label's artists. Many of this year's nominees and headliners are signed to Universal, the world's largest record label.

A significant part of the awards process allows viewers to vote online, which ends Aug. 24. Though MTV.com had been proscribed from running Universal's videos, the temporary truce allows for the viewing of their videos for the voting process.

Universal declined comment, but a label executive previously told Ad Age that they are seeking standard syndication terms. MTV said the label was looking for onerous terms. To renew rights, MTV must negotiate with Vevo, a joint venture between UMG and Sony Music Group that was created last year to distribute and sell ads against music videos online.

For its part, MTV recently inked a distribution deal with Warner Music Group, the only major label not part of the Vevo venture, which allows MTV to sell ads on music videos and split revenue with the label.

Vevo is the No. 3 measured video site on the web, according to ComScore, with 43.7 million unique viewers in June. Last year's VMA's averaged 8.97 million viewers, according to Nielsen, the best showing since 2004.

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