And the Award Goes to… Streaming Services?
by Cat Hausler6 min read
Major award show viewership on network television is dwindling.
Pop culture moments still draw audiences—the Academy Awards saw a spike in the number of people watching in 2022, the year of the infamous slap.
More than half of consumers think that including content other than TV shows and movies would improve the streaming experience.
The majority of the most popular TV shows of 2022 were created specifically for streaming.
Various award show academies are honoring streaming original content.
Award show viewership is waning, but that might not indicate the demise of these programs.
The Golden Globes and Grammys have aired and Oscar noms were recently released—that’s right, we’re in the throes of awards show season. But what used to be an exciting time for millions of people has completely fallen off of many consumers’ radars.
At their peak in 2000, the Primetime Emmy Awards saw nearly 22M¹ viewers. Last year, only 5.92M tuned in for the show. Multiple millions of eyes are nothing to sniff at, but the stat pales in comparison to the numbers of the ’90s and 2000s.
Even in recent years, some of the biggest award shows on TV experienced a steep drop off in viewership. The Golden Globes, which aired on January 10, 2023 had 6.3M watch², while the number was over 18M in 2020. And, the Academy Awards (Oscars) went from 29.6M viewers in 2019 to 15.36M³ in 2022.
The heyday of awards shows may be over, but does this mean they’re on their way out? Due to consumer interest in pop culture and the rising popularity of streaming services and their original content, these programs might live on.
Consumers Are Tuning in for Pop Culture Moments
In 2021, viewership of the Academy Awards hit an all time low at 10.4M⁴. While the number of people watching the show had mostly been decreasing since 2014 when 43.7M consumers tuned in, 2020’s metrics more than doubled 2021’s at 23.6M.
There were only two years since 2014 that the Oscars saw an uptick in viewership—2019 and 2022—both years that offered riveting pop culture moments.
Even before airing, the 2019 Academy Awards was embroiled in controversy. Perhaps the biggest surprise though, was the choice that the Oscars would be host-less for the first time in 30 years—drawing curious eyeballs to see how the event would unfold. Despite the string of juicy events leading up to the program, the 2019 Academy Awards was relatively uneventful—possibly a contributing factor to the following two years experiencing a significantly lower number of watchers, bottoming out at 10.4M in 2021.
Things were looking progressively worse for what used to be film’s biggest night of the year. But then, in 2022, viewership bounced back a bit with 15.36M people tuning in. It doesn’t take a detective to figure out what likely caused that number to spike up—the event came to be known as one of the most infamous moments in Oscars history—Will Smith’s altercation with Chris Rock, aka “the slap”. Wilder still was that Smith went on to win the coveted Best Actor award for his portrayal of tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams’ father in “King Richard”.
This year’s numbers are yet to be seen—the 2023 Academy Awards will take place on March 12. But if the drama leading into 2019 and during the show last year are any indication, the 2023 Oscars may experience an uptick in viewership. If anything, consumer watching patterns over the last seven-ish years should indicate that people still tune in to award shows like the Oscars so that they won’t miss potential pop culture moments—good, bad and ugly.
Streaming May be the Future of Award Show Viewing
The popularity of award shows seems to be dwindling. And, if the Ocsars, Emmys, Grammys, etc. stay on traditional TV networks, their days may be numbered.
This said, streaming could be awards shows’ saving grace. More than half of consumers reported that they think that their streaming experience would be improved if services provided content other than just TV shows and movies⁵—this would include award shows.
Additionally, people are watching streaming in increasing numbers—nearly 70% of U.S. consumers use Connected TV (CTV)⁶. And, in July of 2022, streaming held the largest share of U.S. TV viewing, beating out cable and broadcast. Perhaps there is still an audience interested in award shows, but a more niche one that can be found consuming content via CTV as opposed to on major networks.
Streaming Service Original Content is Most Popular With Consumers
Not only is streaming edging out cable and broadcast in terms of viewership, it is also winning the original content game. According to a recent poll by Reader’s Digest, nine out of 10 of the most popular TV shows of 2022 were created specifically for streaming⁷. And, the success of the only title on the list that was made for network television—kitchen dramedy “The Bear”—was certainly bolstered by being streamable on Hulu.
Various Awards Show Academies Agree With The Public
Streaming service original content isn’t just popular with the masses, the respective award show academies are also taking note. HBO Max and Netflix ruled the Golden Globes this year, with each receiving 14 nominations—Netflix walked away with three wins, while HBO Max picked up four. Streaming was also a big winner at the inaugural Children’s & Family Emmy Awards. And, the upcoming Academy Awards has nominated a plethora of streaming original content.
Streaming Heavyweights Are Already Taking Action
Audiences might not be watching awards shows in large numbers on broadcast and cable TV anymore, but that hasn’t deterred streaming services from getting in on the action. As Axios reported, “In 2021, the Academy of Country Music Awards left its longtime home of CBS — where it aired for 23 years — for Amazon after CBS balked at the price.”
Netflix recently announced that it will own the streaming rights for the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards starting in 2024—the program had previously aired on TNT and TBS. Additionally, with a Hulu + Live TV subscription, consumers can watch a number of popular award shows on the platform.
The ultimate fate of award shows is still unknown. However, because consumer interest has waned significantly in recent years, something will likely have to shift. With streaming viewership continuously increasing and the growing popularity of the services’ original content, Netflix, Hulu and their peers might be the future of award show viewing.
This could be a big win for advertisers—if more award shows transition to streaming, brands can get more specific with audience targeting. Another bonus? Advertisers won’t have to shell out massive amounts of money to get one of a limited number of award show ad spots on linear networks.
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2 Number of Golden Globes TV viewers from 2000 to 2023 (Statista)
6 Connected TV Users (eMarketer)
7 The Top 10 TV Shows of 2022, According to Our Readers (Reader's Digest)