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VGX was Viacom's experiment for future award shows

This week Viacom rebooted the annual Spike TV Video Game Awards after a 10-year run.

And while the results still didn't manage to win over gamers, or much of their audience if you consider the reaction on Twitter, the VGX show might still prove a worthwhile investment for the international media company.

In many ways the retooling of the VGAs, a two-hour show televised live on Spike each year, into the VGX, a three-hour "experience" viewable only on websites and streaming services, was a great way for the media goliath to experiment with award shows.

While Viacom certainly appears to be committed to the video game show, they have a lot of other award shows that can also take some lessons from the first VGX and the way it used technology to massively increase their potential audience.

Speaking with Casey Patterson, executive vice president of event production at Viacom, before the show's airing, she told Polygon that the company definitely sees VGX as a much larger experiment.

"I think it's a bigger picture experiment on broadening out the reach," she said. "When you think about the big picture of this and the way people are consuming, that they are willing to consume media in so many different places in so many different ways, I think that this is an organic step. I think we all know TV everywhere and interactivity is the future. At some point we all have to be brave enough to take the first step into the new world. And there is no audience more pre-disposed to interacting with their content and watching it on all of these different platforms and devices then gamers."

So it was gamers that took that first "brave" step away from television on television and toward television anywhere, but it seems likely that the video games won't be the only medium to have their award show tinkered with.

Show host and executive producer Geoff Keighley says the classic idea of award shows are "antiquated," be they for video games, music or movies.

"An award show of people getting up and accepting trophies on television I think is just not very great TV."

"Look at the other awards shows out there for other mediums," he said. "An award show of people getting up and accepting trophies on television I think is just not very great TV. We have evolved the VGAs into a format that still works for television because we have breaking news inside of it."

That shift actually came years ago, but it's one that Keighley sees as important and influential.

"I remember we started doing that and then the next year the Oscars starting doing sneak peeks of the next year of movies," he said. "We've seen that even with MTV.

"That is the way to engage this audience because gamers want to look forward, they want to look back a little bit but they're not particularly nostalgic. They want to want to know what's next. The inherent challenge of an award show is that you're reflecting on a year of stuff you did months ago and you're thinking about what's next."

The decision to first air VGX on a multitude of websites and streaming services (a one-hour highlight of the show aired days later on Spike TV) was driven by the notion that gamers are simply watching less TV.

"We're trying to follow that audience and lead that audience to the places where they want to consume content," Keighley said. "Moving forward we are going to be doing less on TV and more digital because that's where that audience is."

That Viacom, one of the largest media conglomerates in the world, seems to understand and is reacting to this audience shift is important. It shows that at least in its gaming coverage, Viacom is trying to stay agile and is willing to experiment.

"I think reversing the model is the very best thing we can try," Patterson said. "We should be experimenting. We shouldn't be afraid. We are a company that is great at events and we know how to do that and we can do them in a big way. I don't think we should be afraid to try this."

Good Game is an internationally syndicated weekly news and opinion column about the big stories of the week in the gaming industry and its bigger impact on things to come. Brian Crecente is a founding News Editor of Polygon.

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