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Ahead of new contracts, Hollywood award shows bounce back

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Mar 13, 2024
Illustration of the Oscar statuette bouncing on a pogo stick.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

The death of award shows' TV ratings has been greatly exaggerated.

Why it matters: Award shows contract negotiations are pending, and the shows represent big business for networks, even if they lag their past relevance.

By the numbers: Sunday's Oscars drew 19.5 million viewers — the show's best since 2020 — and marked the third consecutive year of audience gains.

  • The Grammys were up 34% this year to nearly 17 million in February. That followed a 30% ratings improvement for last year's show.
  • The Golden Globes, which moved to CBS this year, drew just under 10 million viewers, up 50% from 2023.
  • The Tony Awards, usually held in June, aired in the middle of the WGA strikes last summer and saw a more modest boost on CBS compared to 2022.

Yes, but: The Emmys has been a major exception, posting declines in five of the past six years. And all five of those times were considered all-time lows.

  • The 2023 edition faced additional challenges. It was delayed by five months — from September to January — and aired opposite an NFL playoff game.

Even with the ratings improvements elsewhere, it's still a far cry from the days when the Oscars would routinely draw more than 40 million viewers.

State of play: Contracts for the Emmys, Grammys and Tonys run through 2026, while the Oscars' current deal expires following the 2028 ceremony.

  • In the past, renewals have been announced with a year or two remaining on their current deals. The Oscars announced its last contract renewal with ABC in 2016, four years before the expiration of that deal (2020).

The big picture: The major awards shows are trying to make their case to stay on linear TV as streaming services look for more live programming.

  • Some shows, most notably the SAG Awards to Netflix, have moved to streaming in recent years.
  • The Golden Globes, seeking to get out from under the controversy from its former governing body, moved to CBS this year but is still without a long-term home.
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