The annual Academy Awards showcases a huge part of Hollywood culture. The first ceremony was held in 1929 and ever since it has become the biggest night for the global film industry. However, this year set the viewership rate for the iconic ceremony at a new record low with only 23,6 million viewers, according to Nielsen Data. This is a 20% year-on-year decrease and something for the organizers to think about.
Why is The Oscars in decline
This year is not the first to see a low viewership figure. The truth is that in the past decade, the number has been trapped between 35 and 45 million. This is while it used to regularly pass the 45 million bar in the early 200s. So why is once a highly anticipated annual show becoming unpopular?
Turns out that the Oscars is not the only big awards ceremony that is having a hard time with the broadcasting figures. Both the Emmy and Grammy awards have experienced plummeting viewership in recent years. Do people not enjoy award ceremonies anymore? Or does this have to do with something else? You can not rely on chances when organizing a major event broadcasted worldwide. The success of every ceremony is crucial for a number of sub-industries and those employed in the field.
The first, quite a fair thought is that the television industry is getting smaller itself. Live television viewing is sharply decreasing. Young people often do not have cable TV and are not subscribed to traditional online TV streaming services. Moreover, Nielsen Data does not count the number of people who watch award ceremonies on different platforms rather than TV. Yet, a 20% year-on-year drop for the said reason is very unlikely and rather alarming.
Another thought is that Oscars organizers are already aware that people are watching these ceremonies with ulterior motives. As recent reports showed, Oscars ceremonies have shown huge spikes in online betting website traffic. It’s pretty easy to connect the dots and deduce that a large group of people actually watching the Oscars are doing so to place bets. This has been extremely common in Europe, especially in the Nordic countries as it’s sort of a legal loophole. Because of this, Oscars season usually triggers extensive campaigning from these companies, which are usually referred to as odds bonus Norge in their native language. It may be a longshot, but it is indeed one of the reasons why people still pay attention to these ceremonies, but for ulterior motives.
Some also believe that the overall decreased popularity of major award ceremonies is because of a more diverse scene and decentralized market. Billboard Music Awards, People Choice Awards, BET Awards and many others took their niche on live TV in recent years. Moreover, more new award shows are being held around the world, taking many people’s eyes off from the traditional ones.
With all the external factors taken into account, such a steep drop in popularity is still difficult to justify. A slow, gradual decline was evident throughout the past 10 years, but 2020 set a new record, serving as a reminder for the industry leaders that something is not quite right.
What is the Academy Awards doing wrong?
Although an overall trend is negative, the viewership charts clearly show some more successful years for the academy. Take a quick look and you will see that the 2014 awards ceremony was the most successful in the past 15 years, as well as the only one to pass the 40 million bar in 6 years. Even without the figures, many would say that the 2014 ceremony was by far the best in this century. What happened back then? It was the year the Hollywood’s landmark night was hosted by Ellen Degeneres, an American TV personality and a host of an acclaimed daytime television show. It also was the year when the Oscars crashed Twitter, making a selfie of Ellen Degeneres, Meryl Streep, Bradly Cooper and other celebrities the most re-posted on the platform.
So what has changed? In 2019, for the first time in 30 years, the Academy Awards went without a host. Instead, ABC announced that the ceremony would be led by different personalities. A number of celebrities taking the stage for shorter periods did not prove successful last year. Nevertheless, Oscars stayed without a host for 2020 as well.
Many argue that having a host made the show more entertaining, streamlined and ‘put together’. After all, no one is ordering pizzas to the Dolby Theatre anymore. Without a leading character, a 3-hour long program is becoming chaotic and even a bit boring.
Another factor worth taking into account is the nominees. The figures show that movies with big box offices flow more into the academy’s pool, while this year’s nominees were not as commercially successful among the mainstream US viewers.
What comes next for Hollywood’s grand night?
In 2019, ABC saw a 14% drop in Oscars’ intake with a total of $114 million in revenue. Among them, commercials that are an important part of income for ABC have also become cheaper. Keeping this in mind, the Academy Awards need to become at the very least more interesting as a show, rather than being solely focused on the winners and losers themselves. The previous experience proves that hosts and more show elements boost viewership and enrich the program. This is exactly what it takes to bring the viewers back if staying relevant is something important for its makers.