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Expand chart
Data: Nielsen; Chart: Axios Visuals

Viewership of Sunday's 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards dropped 11% year-over-year to 6.1 million viewers, according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen. Viewership from people ages 18-49, the prized advertising demographic, fell to a new low of just 1.2 million viewers.

Why it matters: Award shows have been experiencing a terminal ratings decline in recent years, alongside traditional television viewership more broadly. Even before the pandemic, the Oscars and Grammys saw historically low ratings earlier this year.

Be smart: It could be that more viewers are tuning into the ceremonies online via streaming or social media, but the award show industry is riddled with may other issues that are likely impacting viewership.

  • Experts argue that the industry has become too bloated. There are dozens of awards shows for television and film, including the Emmys, the Daytime Emmys, the Oscars, the Golden Globes, the SAG Awards, the Critics' Choice Movie and TV Awards, the MTV Movie Awards and more.
  • In music, there are dozens of shows for specific music genres, like the Country Music Awards and BET Hip Hop Awards, as well as different shows for certain demographics, like the Kids Choice Awards, Teen Choice Awards, etc.
  • Research shows that consumers think the events have gotten too long to capture their attention, especially in an era where 15-second mobile videos on TikTok are all the rage. Some also think the shows have become too political.

The big picture: The virtual nature of this year's television events may have also contributed to viewership decreases.

The bottom line: Audiences have been tuning out of award shows on TV for years, but that trend has been exacerbated in 2020 amid the pandemic and a streaming TV boom.

Go deeper

Sep 21, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Virtual Emmys address chaotic year

Emmy Host Jimmy Kimmel during rehearsals Friday for the 72nd Annual Emmy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Photo: Al Seib/ Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Emmy Awards Sunday night addressed the major U.S. issues this year — including the protests on systemic racism and police brutality, the wildfires engulfing parts of the West Coast, the census, the pandemic, essential works and the election.

Why it matters: Award shows have always addressed wider cultural issues, but this year — amid unprecedented stress and uncertainty — that trend has accelerated.

Kate Marino, author of Markets
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Omicron outbreaks were bad for business in January

Data: New York Federal Reserve Bank; Chart: Axios Visuals

Emerging anecdotal evidence shows just how hard the recent rise in COVID-19 cases hit businesses in early January — but that hasn't hurt some business leaders’ longer-term views on their companies' prospects.

Why it matters: Increasingly, the economic recovery has come in fits and starts that move in tandem with new peaks in cases. Look no further than the thousands of cancelled flights and shuttered Broadway theaters in the wake of the Omicron variant's spread over the last few months.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
2 hours ago - Health

The shifting definition of fully vaccinated

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The definition of what it means to be "fully vaccinated" is evolving even as the CDC has remained careful not to officially change it.

Why it matters: CDC officials have been balancing the job of convincing Americans who've already gotten two doses of the importance of boosters with getting many Americans who still need their first doses to get their shots at all.