Why 'Game of Thrones' Probably Won't Help the Emmys' Ratings Problem

Game of Thrones Still - Publicity - H 2019
Courtesy of HBO

In 2019, awards show audiences are actually up — but Sunday's ceremony isn't likely to aid that narrative thanks to competition from the NFL and a downward trend in Emmy viewership.

The last time Fox aired the Emmys, in 2015, the telecast hit what was then an all-time audience low. As Fox takes its turn again this year, the good news is that it no longer holds that record. The bad news is that the Emmys have set two new lows since. The 2018 show, on NBC, currently holds the dubious honor with a paltry 10.2 million viewers.

Other big awards shows suffered similar erosion since their mid-decade highs but have stabilized in 2019, making gains in either total viewers (Grammys), the adults 18-to-49 demo (Golden Globes) or both (Oscars). The final Emmys for HBO megahit Game of Thrones, up for a record 32 nominations, could boost interest, says Horizon Media's David Campanelli — but airing opposite the NFL on NBC won't help.

Rich Greenfield, a partner at research firm LightShed, notes that with fewer people subscribing to traditional TV providers, the long-term trend is fatigue. He also foresees broadcasters for awards shows partnering with other platforms to augment their audiences: "If the NFL realizes they need to expand distribution with streaming platforms, when will awards shows realize the same?"

This story first appeared in the Sept. 18 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.