Though MTV dragged its feet at first in showing the music videos of black artists, the network's meteoric rise in the 1980s came in tandem with Jackson's, whose music videos such as "Thriller" and "Bad" set the standard for the form.
The VMAs are familiar ground for the family. Janet Jackson has won nine VMAs. Michael Jackson famously opened the 1994 VMAs by kissing his then-wife, Lisa Marie Presley.
MTV will also premiere the trailer for "This Is It," the documentary about Jackson's preparations to hold 50 concerts in London.
"There's obviously lots of emotion around Michael and the memory of Michael, but I think it's going to be a pretty celebratory kind of night all around," said Dave Sirulnick, the show's executive producer and vice president of production at MTV. "It's all about that balance."
Sirulnick declined to give specifics to the Jackson tribute, but said that there's been "quite a few people working hard on it for quite a number of weeks now."
Since the Jacksons' heyday, though, the importance of videos has diminished greatly - a development ironically evident at the Video Music Awards. The network's trademark Moonmen trophies will be handed out (Beyonce and Lady Gaga lead the pack with nine nominations), but the awards will be a minor part of the spectacle.
Instead of a parade of speeches, the ceremony will include performances from Beyonce, Jay-Z, Green Day, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Muse and Pink. The rapper Wale and go-go band UCB will serve as the house band.
"Twilight," the teenage vampire sensation, will also be a constant presence. Footage from the eagerly anticipated sequel, "New Moon," will be presented by the film's stars Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart and Taylor Lautner. Ashley Greene, a co-star in "New Moon," will serve as a fashion correspondent on the red carpet.
"It's an opportunity for a worldwide audience to look in and see what is hot right now - what is at the epicenter today," said Sirulnick.
Last year's host, British comedian and actor Russell Brand, returns for a second time to preside over the festivities. In his first time hosting, Brand memorably mocked the Jonas Brothers' purity rings.
This year's VMAs will be broadcast live on MTV and MTV.com from Radio City Music Hall in New York, beginning at 9 p.m. EDT.