TV Awards Shows Remain Hot Despite Ratings Losses

Jimmy Kimmel and Molly McNearney_BTS_Oscars - Getty - H 2018
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During the first months of 2018, TV's three biggest awards shows — the Oscars, Grammys and Golden Globes — lost 14 million viewers between them, a stunning 18 percent decline from their collective haul the previous year.

Hot takes from the #MAGA peanut gallery called it a referendum on Hollywood elitism. Industry insiders have another explanation. The exodus of younger viewers is now impacting even event TV, while staid producers and unexciting nominees are scapegoats in network conference rooms. But even that narrative can't quiet the fight for broadcast rights. And the Globes and Emmys are currently up for grabs.

"These things are still incredibly important to broadcast television," says Rob Mills, senior vp alternative series, specials and late-night at ABC Entertainment, which has the Oscars through 2028. "It's important to lock them in long term."

The Oscars still are the crown jewel of ABC's calendar — a promotional platform that just helped relaunch American Idol and Roseanne — despite a 54 percent decline in adults 18-to-34 since 2014. (See more stats below.) While some blame audience fatigue this year on months of Harvey Weinstein and the sexual harassment fallout, just as many call out the lack of mainstream hit films to lure back younger fans and the masses. Predicts an optimistic producer, "Nominate Black Panther for best picture and you'll see a turnaround."

The Grammys broadcast is likewise locked up by CBS through 2026, not that it doesn't suffer from its own relevance issues. Viewership for January's show took a noticeable turn when the telecast trotted out Hillary Clinton and Patty Lupone. "By the third appearance from Sting this year, I was waiting for the summary dismissal of whoever was in charge of the run-of-show," says one TV exec, pointing to the dramatic 25 percent ratings drop.

The Emmys telecast may be modest by comparison, pulling in only 11.4 million in 2017, but at least it's steady. Current TV rights expire after this year's NBC outing in August, but broadcast execs are said to be fiercely protective of keeping the show on the Big Four — and one source familiar with negotiations says the ink is "all but dry" on a deal to keep its four-network rotation through 2026.

The Globes are another matter. Talks among the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, producer Dick Clark Productions (which shares a parent company with THR) and 25-year partner NBC have not been productive despite keen interest from the network. Insiders claim NBC lowballed the gala, its audience off only 5 percent in 2018, and producers are engaged with other networks and, says one source, two streaming platforms. Snipes one top HFPA source, "If NBC wants to be a player, they're gonna have to cough up a hell of a lot more."

A version of this story first appeared in the April 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.