Got Awards Show Fatigue? (You Are Not Alone)

Gregory E. Miller
Chris Rock Hosts the Oscars
Andrew Eccles/ABC

Award-show season is almost over—the Grammys aired February 15 and the Oscars shut things down February 28—and for some, it’ll be a welcome reprieve. “By the time the Oscars roll around, it can feel less like a grand finale than a forced death march on a red carpet,” says Matt Roush, TV Guide Magazine’s senior critic.

But despite that sentiment, live award shows are a valuable asset to networks as viewers continue to shift toward DVR-ing and streaming shows on their own time. “It gives networks the invaluable opportunity to have people watching their promos and see the shows that they’re [airing in] the next weeks and months,” says Mark Bracco, executive vice president of Dick Clark Productions, home of the Golden Globes, the American Music Awards and the Academy of Country Music Awards, among others.

In that regard, award shows are giants. Last year’s Oscars brought in more than 37 million viewers, making it 2015’s biggest nonsports audience. That’s more than three times the amount of people who watched Fox’s Grease: Live musical, the latest in TV’s hot trend du jour. With that many eyeballs on the line, making a successful show has become more important than ever. “It is a sort of ballet over three hours that can be awfully tricky,” Bracco says.

With music shows, memorable performances are key—which the Grammys have mastered via song rearrangements, surprising pairings of acts and moving tributes, such as Lady Gaga paying homage to the late David Bowie. “I will sacrifice the idea of doing the latest hit or even the nominated song if an artist has created something really unique [that] people haven’t seen,” says Ken Ehrlich, the show’s longtime producer.

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Lady Gaga performs during THE 58TH ANNUAL GRAMMY AWARDS, Monday, Feb. 15, 2016 (8:00-11:30 PM, live ET) at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles and broadcast on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS �©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Cliff Lipson/CBS

Lady Gaga at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards

For specials like the Oscars, there’s less room for innovation given the constraints of handing out 24 golden guys, so the key is making the most of the time. This year, the producers will attempt to cut down on winners’ banal laundry lists of thank-yous by implementing an on-screen scroll of names previously supplied by the nominees, hopefully allowing the winners to say something noteworthy in their 45 seconds.

But still, how many award shows do we need? Fox has added a new one to its lineup for April, honoring electronic music. “Personally, I feel like there are too many,” says veteran producer Don Mischer. “There seem to be award shows for everything. But as long as people tune in to watch them, they will continue to proliferate.”