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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.

3 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

4 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."