Award shows change to draw viewers

The Golden Globe statuette.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: The Golden Globe Awards are this weekend, which means the ever-expanding awards season is upon us. You may be invited to an award-watching party or two, which is great, 'cause they're always fun. But for the television networks, the shows are big business.

Marketplace's Rico Gagliano explains how the ceremonies are changing to bring back viewers.


RICO GAGLIANO: Ever wonder why there are so many awards shows? Here's a hint: it's not 'cause America just loves to celebrate the arts.

Cynthia Littleton, of trade paper Variety, says it's all about TV networks' bottom line.

Cynthia LITTLETON: Networks love award shows because they're relatively inexpensive to produce, and if they draw big audiences, that's a great formula.

Because big audiences mean big ad dollars. But viewership has been shrinking. Last year's Oscars drew the third-smallest audience since Nielsen started keeping tabs in 1974. So this year, big changes are afoot in awardland.

This Sunday's Golden Globes will feature the show's first celebrity host in 15 years -- British comedian Ricky Gervais. And the Oscars is expanding its Best Picture category, from five nominees to 10. Littleton says one reason is to get bigger, more popular films nominated.

LITTLETON: Because the Oscar telecast rises and falls on who is in contention for Best Picture. And if people care about who's in the race for Best Picture, the ratings are gonna go up. It's just a truism that has held true every year.

Still, some wonder if changes like this can reverse the audience trend. Entertainment industry analyst Hal Vogel says the problem isn't necessarily the shows. It's that there's just too many of them.

HAL VOGEL: You have Oscars, the Tonys, Blockbuster Video Awards, Country Music Awards, so on and so on, Golden Globes, and after a while they center on pretty much the same personalities in similar formats or categories.

As Meryl Streep admitted to USA Today last November, when actors reach the end of award season and accept their Oscar, "The best acting they do all year is when they act surprised."

In Los Angeles, I'm Rico Gagliano for Marketplace.

About the author

Rico Gagliano is the host of Dinner Party Download.

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