Following major rating declines across the award show category in 2015, CBS and ABC modified telecasts for audience appeal. In 2015, both the Grammy’s and Academy Awards posted the lowest show ratings in years. The Grammy’s ratings hit a six year low in 2015 with just 25.3 MM viewers tuning into the event. The music award show received a major rating boost immediately following Whitney Houston’s death in 2012, but has not since regained traction with viewers. The Academy Awards, alternatively, had hit a 10-year rating’s high with host Ellen DeGeneres in 2014 (43.74 MM viewers) but nose-dived to a four year low in 2015 (36.6 MM viewers) with host Neil Patrick Harris.
This year, audiences expecting to spend Valentine’s Day snuggled up watching their favorite performers on the Grammy’s were in for a bit of a surprise. CBS execs shifted The 2016 Grammy’s airtime from Sunday to Monday in order to provide a “nice finale to the weekend” that included both Valentine’s Day and President’s Day this year. The move marks the first time the awards aired on a weekday since 2007. In previous years, weekday telecasts of the awards aired on Wednesdays. The shift of this year’s show will pose interesting implications on ratings as a Monday airtime puts the awards directly against a late season episode of ABC’s The Bachelor. Since both shows rely heavily on a female audience, it’s likely that preliminary rating estimates will be boosted when time-shifted viewing is fully measured.
The reformatting of the Academy Awards on ABC is a bit more drastic than a shifting of the airdate. In an effort to make the show more entertaining and engaging, two new producers are now on board to manage the telecast. One producer, David Hill, is an Emmy-winning veteran of Fox television and the other, Reginald Hudlin, is an Academy Award nominated creative director and executive producer of BET. As a team, these producers have the simple mission of producing an “entertaining show that starts on time and ends on time…”. It appears the Academy is helping out with those time restrictions, as there are now strict guidelines for this year’s nominees. Instead of allowing freeform acceptance speeches, the Academy will require each nominee to submit a list of people to thank. This list will scroll across the bottom of the audience’s screen as the winner accepts their award with an abbreviated, 45-second speech. The show this year will also feature “something for everybody” and “everybody for something,” nodding to a reframed structure celebrating movies that people like and a major focus on diversity.
Though airdates, show structure and hosts may all affect the rating strength of TV’s award season, it’s important to recognize that audience viewing habits grow more fragmented every day. Access to show performances in soundbites and snippets immediately on YouTube and other social media may impact ratings more than any other factor. Why spend two and half hours suffering through an entire show when one performance is just a click away?