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MTV desperately wants to reach millennials, but the VMAs are proof they’re doing it wrong

Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
Maybe it’s better I missed this.
By Jenni Avins
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Despite myself, I wanted to watch the MTV Video Music Awards this year. I wanted to see Nicki, Taylor (and squad), and maybe Beyoncé, and relish the painfully awkward moments that live awards shows so reliably deliver. I understand MTV is trying to reach those pesky, cord-cutting millennials with a recent rebranding that integrates elements of internet ubiquity such as emojis, rainbows, and Miley Cyrus into a lo-fi, neon pastiche. You know, the stuff kids like.

I’m a little old for this—I was born in 1981, incidentally the same year as MTV—which, by some measures, makes me one year senior to the oldest millennials. (I write this with the side-eye of a high school sophomore observing incoming freshmen.)

I was willing to tolerate Miley and her tongue in order to enjoy the rest of this year’s show—maybe she’s this generation’s Max Headroom?—and figured it would be no problem, since MTV knows millennials don’t pay for cable and watch everything on the Internet. I was reassured by announcements of an “All Access Livestream” on MTV’s website, and at 9 pm EST, I opened my laptop. What I found—instead of the show everyone was already tweeting about—was a grid of low-quality live feeds, including one featuring a woman who appeared to be a publicist unaware of being filmed, walking down a corridor, which was as riveting as it sounds.

There were also shots of the crowd, including Kanye and Kim, who were mildly interesting, and it was cute when Kanye was the only one dancing while The Weeknd played, but I couldn’t properly see or hear what got him out of his seat. By then, I’d long missed Nicki and Taylor’s onstage hatchet burying: 

Reuters/Mario Anzuoni
Bad blood no more.

And Twitter told me I was also missing a Britney Spears appearance, and also that Nicki Minaj called Miley Cyrus a bitch. I just had to believe it.

As I reloaded the page on my laptop, I simultaneously downloaded the MTV app—seriously, I have to download an app?—on my iPhone 6 and my dad’s old iPad, which I think may be an iPad 2. It immediately crashed on the iPad and on the iPhone suggested I would need a cable login and password. One of my editors offered his, but no matter, the app didn’t give me the opportunity to use it anyway. Instead, it prompted me to login with Twitter, or open an MTV account, which I also tried to do, and also did not work. (And many others had the same problem).

By now, I had gotten sort of used to not hearing anything happening onstage, and just listening to the shrieks of the crowd and watching Chrissy Teigen check her phone as she sat behind Kanye and the Kardashians.

Twitter told me what I was missing, but that didn’t change the fact that I was missing it—it actually rubbed it in.

Taylor Swift giving Kanye his Video Vanguard award was one moment I got to experience with everyone else, kind of, because she actually entered the realm of the Kanye-cam that was one of the live-streams MTV actually provided in its “All Access Livestream.”

I can’t tell if this experience made me feel really young (I’m a near-millennial cord-cutter who will just see highlights online whenever) or really old (Maybe I could have like, Snapchatted or Periscoped it or something. Plus, I’m so tired.)

Regardless, I’m going to bed.

📬 Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee).

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