So here is Slate economics blogger Matthew Yglesias explaining why it makes sense for MTV to hold a ceremony called the Video Music Awards, even though MTV doesn't play music videos:
Realizing that people would watch a music video channel is hard. Starting a music video channel is easy. And once your music video channel is succeeding, the idea isn't proprietary anymore. If you insist on continuing to fill your network with easily replicable commodity content, you'll end up facing ruinous competition. So a smart network does exactly what MTV's done over the years. You take your audience demographics and your programming niche and you try to build more original less commoditized content around it.
Which may be true from an economics perspective. But Yglesias doesn't address a couple of obvious problems with this, starting with the issue of credibility. MTV may have a demographic that's interested in Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus, but it fills its airtime with Teen Mom and the Real World Part 437, San Francisco Edition, No Puck. For the average viewer, the channel appears to have no skin in the music video game -- and therefore also little or no authority. How can a reality TV channel act like it has anything important to say about music for one night a year?
But even if you somehow don't question the channel's credibility (because, right, awards are total bullshit anyway), that isn't the only problem with the video-awards-with-no-videos arrangement. When MTV hires Jimmy Fallon and Taylor Swift to go on TV and wax poetic on the creative genius and social-change agency of the music video, referring to the newest clip from Macklemore or Kendrick Lamar, the effect is similar to a broken hyperlink. MTV is sending you to a page that isn't really connected. Because of course, if you've been watching MTV, you didn't see those videos. So last night's 30th edition of the VMAs felt like a garish awards gala where the real guests of honor were all missing -- even if the pop stars were there. We were sent back, again and again, to clips of clips that had never gotten such a prime viewing, and asked to take MTV's word for their greatness. But how can we believe that music videos are so cool/great/important if the channel praising them won't even put 'em on the air?