Britney Bombing Spelled Ratings Bonanza for Viacom

What Everyone Is Talking About

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Whoever it was at MTV who invited Britney Spears to be the opening act at last week's Video Music Awards could not have anticipated just what her performance would unleash. Everyone seems to have an opinion about what was to be the 25-year-old pop star's "comeback" performance -- which she executed with all the enthusiasm of a teenager being forced to do her homework.
Not in the zone: Brit's 'comeback' received negative reviews.
Not in the zone: Brit's 'comeback' received negative reviews. Credit: Kevin Winter
Kanye West and 50 Cent disagreed over whether MTV should have put Spears on as the headliner. "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell and "Apprentice" firer Donald Trump both declared the performance a disaster and wondered just how badly she had injured her career. All the negative coverage prompted YouTube phenom Chris Crocker to post an impassioned plea to the world to "LEAVE BRITNEY ALONE."

There's no doubt Britney brought a ratings bonanza. This year's VMA's earned an average rating 23% above last year's, with the premiere reaching more than 7 million viewers. That was welcome news after the past several years, when the show struggled to attract audiences anywhere near the size it drew in its heyday. MTV also claimed a coup for its Britney-related ringtones, made available on MTV Mobile after her performance. Subscriptions to MTV Mobile were double previous daily records, Viacom bragged in its press release.

But where MTV made sure it really scored was online, as the traffic of 8.7 million unique visitors to MTV.com on Monday was up 340% compared with the day after last year's award show, with users flocking to view the video of Britney's performance for themselves. Viacom, still feuding with Google and YouTube over the posting of its programming, made sure to get any video of Britney sleepwalking through "Gimme More" off rival sites, and even made it impossible for bloggers to embed MTV's video clip on their pages. It did, however, buy a Google AdSense ad, directing anyone searching for the pop star's meltdown to its own VMA page -- which, as Salon tech writer Farhod Manjoo noted, meant Viacom was paying Google to direct people to the video rather than accept any money from Google or YouTube to host the video. And you thought Britney was the confused one in all this.

Update
Jeremy Zwieg, Viacom VP-Media and Editorial, sent us this link pointing us to how MTV.com did provide a link to the Britney video for those who wanted to embed it in their blogs. So go and get it if you want it. Those complaining about it last week must have missed it, as did I. Apologies.
- AMK
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