Award Shows: Are They Going By The Wayside?

Did anyone know that the Emmys took place two weeks ago? Or that Grammys are happening this Sunday? Was anyone aware the Golden Globes were happening until Lily Gladstone made her historic win? 

I sure didn’t. And so did others. This year’s Emmys, for example, marked the lowest viewing figures in the program’s history, with 4.3 million tuning in. Compared to other years, such as in 2000, when over 20 million watched the ceremony that year. The Golden Globes fared no better. Although better than last year’s ceremony (6.3 million viewers), the Golden Globes still have yet to match their peak from previous years. So, why are these awards shows, which stopped the presses in their heyday, now merely passing thoughts in the minds of audiences? 

Perhaps the current is changing regarding how people consume their media. With the rise of streaming and subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, the need for cable slowly decreases. In July 2023, “…Usage among pay-TV customers fell to 29.6% of TV, while broadcast dropped to a 20% share during the month. Streaming made up nearly 39% of usage… .” Why watch something like the Emmys when you can turn on Succession or The Great British Baking Show? It’s not like award shows aren’t trying to adapt to the modern age; the Golden Globes streamed on Paramount+ in concurrence with airing on CBS, as did the Tonys. These did not make people want to watch these award shows, however. 

So, maybe it’s not due to the rise of streaming services. But they could contribute to it. With people watching less TV, you have fewer people watching fewer commercials, in theory. As such, audiences are unaware of what pieces of media are being awarded. Looking at the “Best Picture” category, I can say I’ve seen one of these films and have only heard of a handful. Of course, everyone has heard of Barbenheimer,” but has the audience gone out of their way to see those movies? Why go to the movies when you can stream? “Oh, this foreign film isn’t available yet? I’ll just wait for it to come out on Amazon.” The awards are already handed out when these films appear on streaming services.  

However, as the shows presented on streaming services grow, and as a result, the amount of shows presented on streaming services being nominated grows, why aren’t people watching those shows winning? Awards shows are not about the media itself, but rather, the people who make the media. For example, when Moonlight won “Best Picture,” the producers received the physical awards. Magazines like People dedicate pages to talking about who dressed worst/best. In that case, perhaps audiences just don’t care about celebrities as much as they used to. Or have recognized that celebrities aren’t their friends. And on the flip side, perhaps celebrities don’t care about award shows as much as they used to.

Take a look at who’s hosted the Golden Globes over the years. You have Ricky Gervais, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Seth Myers in the 2010s. This year, Jo Koy hosted them. Last year, comic Jerod Carmichael took on the mantle of host. In all honesty, I don’t know who these people are. Maybe it’s because I live under a rock or, perhaps, because more famous comics are feeling hosting fatigue. Consider the audience as well. Do viewers want to watch three hours of out-of-touch celebrities grandstanding causes they don’t care about, making off-color jokes about their peers, or pretending to care about the ceremony they are hosting? The answer is no. I’m not saying that award shows have become “too political” or criticizing celebrities for using their platform to support their causes. That’s an article for another day. However, when a celebrity utters the same Trump joke ten times or another iteration of the Will Smith Slap, it makes me think that the scriptwriters don’t know how to be funny without lazy writing. 

This is not to say that the dozens of scriptwriters, production assistants, sound designers, cinematographers, and all those involved in making these films, TV shows, or plays don’t deserve their work recognized by a broader audience. The opposite, in fact. Cinema, theatre, or music are worth putting on a pedestal. If televised award shows are going the way of the dodo, maybe we should let them. At the same time, then, how do we recognize these talented people? Should The Academy release a press statement? Or should the Recording Academy send trophies in the mail? Weirdly, that also doesn’t feel right. Without these award ceremonies, all the pomp and circumstance that comes with them also goes the way of the dodo. 

The Academy Awards will air on March 10. There are exciting things to look for: Lily Gladstone might become the first Indigenous woman to win “Best Actress.” “Barbie” can potentially win “Best Picture,” taking the award out of the hands of the nominated dramas. Compared to other awards shows, the viewing figures for the Oscars are going up rather than down. Will it be enough to save the televised award show? Perhaps. Perhaps not. But what will stay the same is the aftermath. The Oscars will air, there will be a discourse on who should’ve won or lost, and people will complain about all the Taylor Swift jokes. The awards themselves may change, but the way people interact with them? Probably not.