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The Journal Gazette

  • FILE - In this March 4, 2018 file photo, host Jimmy Kimmel speaks at the Oscars in Los Angeles. The Academy Awards reached 26.5 million viewers, easily a record low for what is often the second most-watched program of the year after the Super Bowl. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)

  • FILE - In this Jan. 28, 2018 file photo, Bruno Mars accepts the award for record of the year for "24K Magic" at the 60th annual Grammy Awards in New York. Grammy viewership slipped below the 20 million mark, down 24 percent from 2017 and the music awards show's smallest audience since 2009. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP, File)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 1:00 am

Ratings suggest award interest down

DAVID BAUDER | Associated Press

NEW YORK – After Nielsen's brutal morning-after report cards for the Oscars and Grammys this winter, it's worth asking whether television viewers are losing interest in watching the entertainment industry's most prominent people celebrate themselves.

The Academy Awards reached 26.5 million viewers, easily a record low for what is often the second most-watched program of the year after the Super Bowl. A month earlier, Grammy viewership slipped below the 20 million mark, down 24 percent from 2017 and the music awards show's smallest audience since 2009. Opening night of the Winter Olympics had a bigger crowd than both shows.

That's alarming news for networks that have considered major awards shows to be reliable, DVR-proof live events. Experts suggest the shows aren't immune to the same forces depressing viewership across all of television, with some specific factors that hurt the Oscars and Grammys this year.

By the time the Oscars are done, viewers who follow these things are probably exhausted from months of awards. There's little novel about celebrities standing on stage with a piece of hardware, thanking God, their spouses and agents.

Big awards shows used to be one of the few chances to see celebrities outside of their work. But the entertainment news shows make that common-place, too, said Tom O'Neil, editor of Goldderby.com, a web site that dishes and predicts winners of big awards.

“The true glut of media that we have out there nibbles at the viewership base of the awards shows,” O'Neil said.

The bad performances of the Grammys and Oscars can't be explained simply by those factors, however. The Golden Globes audience of 19 million in January was 5 percent down from 2017, a decrease roughly on par with what most programs see these days. The Emmy Awards audience of 11.38 million last fall was slightly up from the year before, Nielsen said.

Some political conservatives have suggested that a backlash among viewers against liberal celebrities espousing their views contributes to the slump. A Fox News web site headline in January said that the “Trump-bashing Golden Globes” ratings were down. That's a factor hard to measure, however. One of the Globes' biggest stories was an Oprah Winfrey speech some saw as a 2020 presidential campaign-opener. Despite that, Globe ratings didn't nearly go down as much as the Grammys or Oscars.