2016 Emmys Ratings Sag: Are Televised Awards Shows Headed for Extinction?
The 68th Primetime Emmy Awards made some surprisingly terrific choices when it came to their winners last night, selecting a group that, by and large, actually mirrored the tastes of vocal TV fans and critics (check out the 2016 Emmy winners list here). The Jimmy Kimmel-hosted broadcast also managed to avoid the bloated runtime typical of its fellow award shows, scooting in under the three-hour mark. If you know these things already, you must have read it on Twitter, because early Emmys ratings reports suggest you didn't tune in.
How many people watched the 2016 Emmy Awards? Well, Nielsen Media's early overnights report recorded a viewership of 8.4, translating to 11.3 million people down slightly from the 11.9 million viewers in 2015. According to the Hollywood Reporter, this translates to a new all-time low in Emmys ratings, even if it's only incrementally worse than last year's record low.
Sunday Night's Emmy Awards faced two formidable network competitors in NBC's Sunday Night Football and the premiere of CBS' multi-part The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey series, both of which grabbed more eyeballs than the ceremony. It's also quite possible that the conversation regarding this year's Emmy noms — largely centered around cable and subscription streaming shows including Mr. Robot, Orphan Black and Amazon's Transparent — was too far afield of what potential Emmys viewers watch themselves.
Perhaps it speaks to a schism between two kinds of television consumers: Loyal network-watchers who keep The Big Bang Theory on the air versus streaming-savvy Transparent fans who have no interest in a middle-of-the-road awards show on ABC?
And then there's the fact that awards show ratings have seen a general decline in recent years, in an age when people can catch the highlights along with some sugar-free snark on social media. In August, Variety reported that the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards saw a 34% drop from its already plummeting 2015 ratings, drawing just 6.5 million viewers even with the help of broadcasts on 10 of MTV's sister networks under Viacom. The 2016 Oscars had the second-worst ratings in its show's history, though that may speak more to the public's distaste for the dialogue around its nominations more than it does to a permanently dwindling interest. The 2016 Grammys also faced their lowest ratings in six years. Is it officially time to acknowledge that big-name awards shows aren't the major, advertising dollar-grabbing events they once were?
The way consumers watch TV continues to splinter amid a myriad of options. And in order to have time to, oh, stream 8 hours of Orange Is the New Black, viewers often opt to catch the highlights through Twitter and Tumblr. The audience for online video also grows as network viewership shrinks, so if the Emmys, Oscars and Grammys are smart, they'll start chasing the audience to where it's already relocating. Does that mean the 2024 Emmys will merely be a 180 minute-long Snapchat story? Only time will tell.
The Best-Dressed Actresses at the 2016 Emmy Awards