Every year, hundreds of celebrities gather under one roof to celebrate the success of their peers. The Emmys, Grammys, Golden Globes, Oscars and Tony Awards celebrate excellence across all forms of media. As recent as 2014, the Oscars, the most prestigious of the group, were able to command an enormous viewing audience of nearly 45 million viewers but cratered to an all-time low of 10.4 million in 2021. In 2022, viewership increased by 50% to 15 million, but that still represents the second-least-viewed Oscars in history. While the awards haven’t lost prestige to the celebrities who win, why isn’t the public celebrating along with them, and what implications does this have for the media forms they celebrate?
Live TV is a fading medium.
Live TV was a thriving industry just a decade ago, but the last few years have rapidly changed this crucial media form. Subscriptions to streaming video services skyrocketed in a tradeoff for cable, which lost over ten million subscribers since 2016.
Before the creation of other streaming services, people only had to select a few channels to choose what to watch. Now, viewers can choose between any cable channel and Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, Paramount+, Disney+, or other streaming platforms. Since audiences, especially younger ones, aren’t tuning into TV as regularly as they have in the past, they’ll naturally miss advertisements and the eventual show for the Golden Globes, Oscars, or Critics Choice Award.
Content variety confuses the general population.
With all of these streaming services available, it’s nearly impossible to consolidate content that receives award nominations. In the past, people enjoyed watching awards ceremonies because each film had been viewed by millions across one medium: theaters. Now, a few movies nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars will have been blockbusters, like Top Gun: Maverick or Black Panther: Wakanda Forever; a few will have been moderate theatrical successes, like Everything Everywhere All at Once; the rest will be an assortment of various streaming releases.
The general population will not tune in to watch films they haven’t heard of winning awards. While All Quiet on the Western Front, Living, Tár, The Banshees of Inisherin and The Whale are critically acclaimed films, their reach is not widespread to the average moviegoer.
It’s a PR problem.
Award associations need to promote the show and the nominated productions if they want more event viewers. The smaller TV shows and movies receiving nominations need promotion on social media to gain traction for the eventual award ceremonies.
“While these shows may have once held some form of value to people, the results never seem to fit everyone’s belief,” said Jordan Bryant, an Alpha PRoductions member. “It’s discouraging [to see your favorite actors lose], and the plastic trophies and shallow speeches [from the winners] don’t make it worthwhile either.”
Nielsen, the foremost TV statistics reporting agency, reports that only 25% of Americans watch TV during primetime, a decrease from 35.7% of Americans in the 2015-16 season. This statistic is worse for the key 18 to 49 age demographic, which has decreased from 29.6% to 16.2% in that same time.
Younger generations will tune in if they feel these shows are an event that must be experienced live. The Oscars featured unique musical numbers in the past and felt like a grand stage experience. Now, they open up with a little stand-up and focus more on the actors than the production. The showmanship was one of the main reasons viewers would tune in.
A major issue surrounding these awards shows is the use of real-time reporting on social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Why should somebody sit in front of a TV screen through commercials for three hours to see a show they like to win an award if they can see the acceptance speech on Twitter just a few minutes after it happens?
Using social media to promote the events more heavily would also benefit viewership. So far, the Oscars and Grammys have only released information on who’s hosting the show. These shows need to emphasize the famous actors and singers who could win these awards by spotlighting them. If people know that their favorite celebrities are nominated for awards, they might be excited to tune in.
While it’s refreshing to wipe the slate clean by declaring the best of the best from the previous year with grand awards and a flashy presentation, it doesn’t matter much if people aren’t watching the ceremonies. Therefore, award organizations will be eagerly looking for the next PR campaign to maximize their reach and bring back the prestige of winning a major award. The campaign that can bring the Oscars back to its peak will surely deserve its own gold statuette.