Golden Globes and Grammys Foreshadow an Oscars Ratings Disaster

Grammys Shed 10 Million Viewers From Last Year, Set New Low

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Can Oscars Avoid the Ratings Disaster Felt by the Golden Globes and Grammys?

Record-low viewership is basically a given, but how low can April 25 ABC telecast go?

That expletive you just heard muttered under someone’s breath? It very well may have come from the executive offices of ABC and the Motion Picture Academy. With the Grammys ratings out — and viewership less than half of the already-low level of last year — the Oscars host network and producers now knows exactly what they are up against with next month’s big show.

Sunday’s 63rd annual Grammy Awards sunk more than 60% in ratings from last year among adults 18-49, the age-range most sought after by advertisers on entertainment programming. Just 8.8 million viewers tuned in across multiple platforms, down by a full 10 million from a year ago.

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Yeah, last month’s disastrously rated Golden Globes telecast was no fluke. And we are now at the point where each of the other major awards shows have sunk to record-low numbers in their respective pandemic-dampened outings.

The Oscars were already set a record low last year. Buckle up.

Sunday’s Grammys basically halved the annual CBS show’s previous record-low audience (16.999 million total viewers back in 2006). The primetime special, emceed by “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, dropped 61% to a 2.1 rating among adults 18-49.

Two weeks prior, NBC’s 2021 Golden Globes shed 63% of total viewers from 2020, plummeting from 18.4 million overall TV viewers to a mere 6.9 million. The special’s 1.4 rating in the key demo was down 68% from 2020’s 4.7.

And last September, the 72nd Emmy Awards on ABC drew 6.1 million total viewers and a 1.3 rating among adults 18-49. Both were new all-time lows.

Last year’s Oscars on ABC managed a 5.3 rating and 23.6 million total viewers. Those were both record lows, and that live celebration of film happened before COVID-19 interfered with U.S. telecasts — or the traditional release of movies in theaters.

What’s worse is that each of the four major annual awards shows have gotten progressively more normal and less virtual. The Grammy Awards were basically fully live, with nominees and winners gathered at socially distanced tables at the Los Angeles Convention Center — and performers doing fully choreographed routines in vast, open spaces. Plus, critics generally seemed to enjoy the “Music’s Biggest Night” 2021 telecast (well, not everyone) — a feeling not reflected in Nielsen’s measurements.

All of this does not bode well for the April 25 Academy Awards on ABC.

The Academy announced on Monday that the show will take place at its usual Dolby Theater and also Los Angeles’ Union Station — a more open venue that will enable more social distancing. And in an email to AMPAS membership, Academy President David Rubin said attendance will be limited to presenters, nominees and their guests.

It’s still unclear whether the show will have a host.

One other source of hope for the Oscars: The producers include Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and “Ocean’s Eleven” director Steven Soderbergh, who led a Directors Guild committee on restarting production with social distancing guidelines and may have a few tricks up his sleeve.

But the show arguably already has an uphill battle taking place all the way in late April after last year awards season was all wrapped up by February 9.

“Every Oscar producer gets a chance to remake the show as they see fit. Lynette and I sought to create a theatrical experience with lots of music that would feel entertaining not only to the folks in the room but to viewers at home,” Stephanie Allain Bray, who co-produced last year’s ceremony, told TheWrap.

“A big part of the success of any Oscars show is the production team who returns every year. Glenn Weiss, Rob Paine, Bob Dickinson, Rickey Minor, Raj Kapoor, Taryn Hurd and a myriad of others create a solid foundation for the producers to make their own stamp,” Bray continued. “I’m sure that Steven, Stacey and Jesse will knock it out of the park by bringing their own groove to it especially during these unconventional times. Necessity is the mother of invention.”

The Academy Awards are generally considered the second most-watched primetime telecast of the year, every year. Though there can be semantics-level arguments made for or against that title, the distinction is very much in danger this year.

Even without the worst global pandemic in a century, general TV ratings trends have dragged down the viewership of both general and special programming. Audiences have become more fragmented across a growing number of streaming services and alternative ways to consume entertainment.

Speaking of those streamers, it also won’t help that almost no one saw the nominees (find them all here) in a theater this year. The movie-going experience of the past 12 months has been about as unspectacular as it gets.

Yes, since March 2020, it’s all been about unspectacular as it gets.

Brian Welk contributed to this story.

Tony Maglio