Is that a wrap for awards ceremonies?

·2-min read
The 63rd edition of the prestigious Grammy Awards was only watched by 8.8 million US TV viewers.

Although keenly awaited among culture sector professionals, awards ceremonies have been struggling to muster public interest since the onset of the pandemic. The latest Grammy Awards, for example, were shunned by almost 98% of Americans age 18 to 49, and scored the worst viewer ratings in their history.

They once set the tempo in the cultural calendar, but the covid-19 pandemic and its various restrictions have forced awards ceremonies to reinvent. Now, these events are favoring more hybrid formats, where musical performances alternate between live and pre-recorded sets. Take, for example, the 63rd edition of the prestigious Grammy Awards, held March 14 in Los Angeles.

While the ceremony was marked by many highs, it failed to win over US TV viewers. Only 8.8 million tuned in to watch the Grammy Awards live this year, according to Nielsen data, down 53% on 2020. Ratings for this 63rd edition are particularly poor among Americans in the 18 to 49 age bracket, just 2.1% of whom followed the event on NBC or online. In comparison, 5.4% of them tuned in to the 2020 ceremony.

This drop in ratings is a worry for chiefs of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science and the ABC network, who are preparing to stage the upcoming edition of the Oscars in Los Angeles, April 25. This is a particularly awaited ceremony given that it will be held over a year after movie theaters in the US city were forced to close due to covid-19. The Oscars organizers already had reason for concern after the Golden Globes, which drew just 6.9 million TV viewers in the US.

Although awards ceremony viewer ratings have been at rock bottom since last year, industry professionals note that the figures were already relatively disappointing, even well before the start of the pandemic. "This is actually nothing new, but it's accelerated," Richard Rushfield, editor-in-chief of newsletter The Ankler told CBC News. "Things that might have taken 10 years have now happened in six months." Many also point to the various scandals that have recently sullied the credibility of awards ceremonies, like nomination snubs for The Weeknd at the Grammy Awards and the hit series "I May Destroy You" at the Golden Globes. Maybe the next edition of the Oscars will reverse the trend...

Caroline Drzewinski