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After Abysmal Ratings For Oscars, Other Awards Broadcasts, Is The Writing On The Wall For Awards Shows?




People watch a TV screen showing South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung at the Seoul Railway Station on April 26, 2021 in Seoul, South Korea.
People watch a TV screen showing South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung at the Seoul Railway Station on April 26, 2021 in Seoul, South Korea.
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

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The Academy Awards television audience plunged to 9.85 million viewers on ABC, less than half of the Oscars' previous low and continuing a startling trend of viewers tuning out for awards shows.

The Nielsen company's preliminary estimate shows that the audience who watched “Nomadland” win best picture on Sunday was 58% below last year's tally of 23.6 million, which had set the previous record for least-watched Oscars telecast.

Following a year where movie theaters were mostly closed due to COVID-19, people were unexcited about or unfamiliar with movies they primarily streamed at home. Producers tried to fight through pandemic fatigue with a hostless program and a small, socially-distanced audience that didn't wear masks during the broadcast. The event drew mixed reviews, and renewed questions about the types of movies the industry makes and wants to honor.To be fair, all awards shows have been in a ratings free-fall. Both the Golden Globes (6.9 million viewers) and Grammy Awards (9.2 million) had record low audiences this year.The normal glitz, glamour and excitement of these programs have been muted by the pandemic. Instead, producers have had to deal with live audiences either limited or non-existent, presented to an audience already sick of seeing people on Zoom.

It wasn't long ago that the Oscars were often the second most-watched television program of the year after the Super Bowl. For most of the 2000s, the Academy Awards audience was in the 35 million to 45 million range each year. Only six years ago, in 2015, the Oscars reached 37.3 million people, Nielsen said.

Today on AirTalk, we’ll look at what these continued poor ratings mean for the future of the Oscars and the broadcasts of other awards shows as well. We want to hear from you -- did you watch the Oscars this year? Why or why not? What role did the pandemic play in your connection to this year’s movie releases? Do you think there is still a place for award shows in our society? What do you think would make the Oscars and other awards show broadcasts more generally appealing? Join our conversation by calling us at 866-893-5722.

With files from the Associated Press

Guest:

John Horn, KPCC arts and entertainment host; he tweets @JGHorn