Make no mistake — for a broadcast network, hosting an award show is still a prize in the ratings department. But the numbers are less glittery than they were in days of yore.
When this month’s Oscars dropped 20 percent to its smallest audience ever (a still significant 23.6 million viewers), it continued a trend of waning numbers for star-studded kudoscasts. Last spring’s Tony Awards and September’s Emmy Awards also slipped to all-time lows, while last month’s Golden Globes hit an eight-year audience low and the Grammys dipped six percent after declining sharply the two years prior.
Looking back a full decade for each award show….
The Primetime Emmy Awards are struggling the most, down 49 percent in audience over that span while dropping 61 percent in the coveted 18-49 demo. The Emmys’ most recent “high note” came in 2013, when Neil Patrick Harris hosted and the show scored its largest audience in eight years — 17.7 million total viewers. Modern Family was named Best Comedy for a fourth straight year, Breaking Bad won Best Drama and upstart-y Netflix collected three total trophies, including the first for an online-only series. In 2019, however, the Emmys didn’t even crack 7 million viewers.
The Academy Awards (or what you may call “the Oscars”) have sustained big hits as well, down 38 percent in audience over the past 10 years while plunging 55 percent in the demo. Filmdom’s most recent apex came in 2014, when Ellen DeGeneres took a second turn as host and the ceremony delivered a whopping 43.7 million viewers aka the biggest crowd since 2000’s record-setting outing (which did 46.5 mil). That year, Gravity, 12 Years a Slave and Frozen were among the big winners. For the past two years, the Oscars have gone without a host; in 2019, the novel notion resulted in a tiny uptick, but this month the numbers took a plunge.
The Grammy Awards have fared not quite as horribly as their TV and film kin, down 30 percent in audience from 2011 while slipping 46 percent in the demo. That spike you see in 2012 came barely 24 hours after Whitney Houston’s tragic death. In a quickly planned tribute, Jennifer Hudson covered Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” while the ceremony’s other draw was Adele converting on all six of her nominations.
The Tony Awards tend to be quiet and stable, down “just” 23 and 33 percent from 10 years prior and enjoying a massive spike in 2016 when a little show called Hamilton amassed 11 total wins.
This year’s Ricky Gervais-hosted Golden Globes — despite hitting an eight-year audience low — actually drew a larger audience than the Gervais-hosted 2011 telecast. As the chart illustrates, the Hollywood Foreign Press’ mildly regarded gala enjoyed a serious shot in the arm when, in 2013, Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler began what would be a three-year reign as co-hosts. It’s been in decline since then, save for a small audience boost in 2017, when crowd pleaser La La Land dominated.
To what do YOU attribute any given award show’s ratings decline? The choice of host? Snoozy nominees? Politically charged acceptance speeches? Too much filler?