Ratings: VMAs Get MTV Biggest Audience Ever

MTV pulls record ratings with a minimum of GTL

MTV claimed its biggest audience ever for Sunday's Video Music Awards, pulling in 12.4 million total viewers.

That's about as many people as watch a big "Jersey Shore" episode, plus another 3.5 million viewers. And this time, no one even got punched in the face.

See also: VMAs: Watch Adele, Gaga, Beyonce, and That's All (Video)

The show shrewdly hyped a performance by Lady Gaga (left), bringing her on the air days before the broadcast to announce that she would open the show. She did it in character as her male alter ego, Jo Calderone. News of Beyonce's pregnancy, which broke just before the show, also seems to have driven tune-in.

The show was up 8 percent over last year's VMAs in the demo, and 9 percent in total viewers. MTV said it was the network's most-watched telecast of all time in the 12-34 demo. Citing Nielsen numbers, it said it had a 10.8 demo rating and 8.5 million viewers in the demo.

MTV also said the VMAs were the top cable telecast of 2011 in the demo, and the top  non-sports cable telecast of 2011 in total viewers.

The pre-show was ranked as the best on record in the demo and total viewers. It netted 5.2 million 12- to 34-year-olds, and 7.3 million total viewers.

MTV Digital also had its highest VMA day ever on Sunday, with VMA content drawing two million unique visitors, a 33 percent increase over last year.