The Recording Academy has faced similar pressures, if not quite as ostentatiously, before delivering a mostly entertaining show — with an expanded list of nominees in key categories — emceed by Alicia Keys, after two years of CBS latenight host James Corden.
Notably, some of the proposed “fixes” for Oscar ratings didn’t seem to be a major issue for the Grammys. For starters, ABC has been eager to trim the broadcast’s length, holding it close to three hours. The Grammys ran several minutes past their allotted 3 ½-hour window, despite abruptly cutting Drake’s acceptance speech short and playing off some of the more long-winded winners.
CBS did cite some other encouraging metrics, including the Grammys’ status as the “most social” awards telecast this season, and a significant increase on digital platforms. Overall, more than 40 million viewers watched at least part of the broadcast.
On the down side, the continued slide among younger adults is surely a concerning trend, if part of a larger challenge facing broadcasting in general as TV consumption habits change.
The Oscars, of course, cap a dizzying run of award shows — many of them televised — that drag out over more than two months. Given that saturation and the sometimes-repetitive nature of these affairs — such as Lady Gaga singing “Shallow” on Sunday, and due to reprise that in two weeks on the Oscars — the top ceremonies seem to be fighting an ongoing battle to resist the pull of gravity.
Still, Sunday’s Grammy results — paired with relatively flat numbers for the Golden Globes in January — provide some hope that audience tune-in could be flattening out, or at least settling around a new normal. The hope also lingers that having more popular nominees in the best-picture mix — including “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star is Born” — will boost interest, and thus viewership.
That might not be enough to make Oscar organizers sleep easy, but in the current awards climate, just holding serve ratings-wise, as the Grammys did, is beginning to look like a victory.