Award shows, such as the Oscars, used to be some of the most highly anticipated nights of the year in Hollywood and across the U.S. Now, they barely get as much attention or viewership.
Some of pop culture’s most iconic moments have happened at these award shows, such as the infamous scandal in 2009 where Kanye West stole the stage from Taylor Swift to argue Beyoncé deserved the VMA for Best Video by a Female Artist instead. Or the 2016 Oscars “Moonlight” and “La La Land” misunderstanding that caused awkward tension and merited sympathy for presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.
According to Nielsen, the Oscars viewership has decreased from around 50 million viewers in 1980 to less than 20 million viewers after 2020.
There has been criticism of Nielsen’s ratings by television networks and executives whose success is contingent upon high ratings and feel the ratings are often inaccurate and underreported. Though there may be errors, there is still a clear pattern in how award show viewership has decreased dramatically.
Growing up in the early 2000s, I remember people throwing watch parties for these award shows and getting hyped up all week to watch them. They were some of the most exciting nights of the year, and the next day, my entire class would be buzzing with excitement over who won or fuming with anger over who should have.
Today, many are indifferent to these award shows even happening at all.
Since consumers now have more entertainment freedom than ever before, many watch shows and movies on streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Disney+ or HBO Max instead of watching live TV. Lots of these streaming services have little to no advertisements, unlike live award shows that rely heavily on advertisements for revenue.
The red carpet portion of these shows is also less thrilling overall. Before the internet and social media, it used to be more difficult for fans to see their favorite celebrities because they would have to go to concerts, watch talk shows or watch these award shows to get a fix of their favorite stars.
Now, fans can simply log onto social media like Instagram and YouTube if they want to keep up with stars’ lives through pictures, videos and even live streams.
Celebrity posts on social media often feel more personal anyway, as they can control what is being posted and often share special messages about their personal lives, friends and families to their fans.
Red carpet interviews and award show speeches can feel manipulated by the media, so fans may appreciate viewing celebrities in a more organic way on social media than through an interview on a red carpet or a speech at an award show.
Recently, I have not heard anything about award shows until this year. It took Will Smith assaulting Chris Rock to get people talking about the Oscars again.
This controversial situation will definitely be the most remembered moment from the 2022 Oscars. The scandal will probably continue to be capitalized by news outlets, podcasts and even through comedy skits on Saturday Night Live.
It is depressing that award shows will probably never be as popular as they used to be, as technology continues to evolve and give consumers more choice in what media they consume. I will miss the times when award shows brought people together and gave us a chance to bond and share our thoughts afterwards, but I will have to accept the depressing decline of live TV.
Kara Acinapuro (she/her) is a junior studying media advertising. She is vice president of Women in Media and a member of Alpha Phi Omega.