On Friday, Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring. But the groundhog failed to make any such forecasts about 2024 Oscars viewers. Amateur.
Two days after Phil crawled back into whatever hole he came from, Sunday’s Grammys TV audience soared 34 percent above 2023’s telecast with an average of 16.9 million viewers — the most since the B.C. (before COVID) days. Hold our (open bar) beers, the Golden Globes said. Less than one month earlier, the Globes jumped 50 percent to 9.3 million viewers, its own best tally since the pandemic.
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Should we pencil the Oscars in for a huge year? Yes and no. So, maybe. Probably. Depends on your definition of “huge.”
The 2024 Grammys and Globes took two very different paths to this point. The Grammy Awards grew from a pretty good performance the prior year; the Globes recovered from an all-time low. Both aired on CBS, the longterm home of the Grammy Awards, and streamed live on Paramount+. Until this year, the Globes were on NBC.
The Globes earned every bit of its 2023 record low. In 2021, it was revealed that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), the large group of journalists that voted for the Golden Globe Awards, had exactly zero Black members. A backlash axed the 2022 telecast, though awards were still handed out privately. The following year, NBC aired a shell of a show; it proved to be the final one for NBC, and for the disbanded HFPA.
January’s Golden Globes bump wasn’t entirely about a lackluster starting point. Beyond an upgrade in network (CBS likes to remind viewers it is “America’s Most-Watched Network,” and it is), it was the awards season’s first crack at honoring “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” (And yes, “Barbenheimer.”)
It was “Oppenheimer” that leveled the competition there.
Weeks later, “Barbie” actually ended up winning more Grammys (three) than Golden Globes (two); Ludwig Göransson won a golden gramophone on Sunday for his “Oppenheimer” score.
January’s Emmy Awards, meanwhile, set a new record low off an old record low. The exception that proves the rule, perhaps?
2023 2024 Emmys averaged just 4.3 million viewers on January 15, a decline of 27 percent from 2022’s 5.9 million viewers. These were technically the trophies that were supposed to be handed out in September 2023, but the writers and actors strikes delayed the program.
The Emmys faced no lack of challenges. Beyond the delay off of its usual spot on the calendar, the Emmy Awards found themselves on a holiday, Monday, Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and against the NFL Playoffs for the first time ever. Plus, this particular telecast in the network rotation aired on Fox, a severe downgrade from CBS. (The 2021 Emmy Awards, which aired on CBS on a Sunday in September, averaged 7.9 million total viewers.)
And, oh yeah, there was no “Barbenheimer” for TV. (No offense, “Succession,” we love you.)
Even with no directing nod for Greta Gerwig and no acting nomination for Margot Robbie, “Barbie” will take its biggest swings yet at the Oscars. That will help.
The 2023 Oscars grew 13 percent from the prior year to 18.8 million viewers. The show was buoyed by Jimmy Kimmel’s return as host and by virtue of being the first Oscars since Will Smith slapped Chris Rock mid-show. Casual film fans wanted to see what would happen. (It turns out, not much.)
Well, Kimmel is back again, which gives the Academy Awards a steady and deft emcee. Unlike the Globes and Grammys, there will likely be no Taylor Swift at the Oscars, so diehard Swifties will probably sit this one out. Swift attended the Globes as a nominee (and as a punchline of one especially weak Jo Koy joke) for her “Eras Tour” film, which is not nominated for an Oscar. She was at the Grammys to add to her bursting trophy case — and to announce a new album.
In theory, she could make it. Swift should be walking off a Singapore stage for a two-month tour break around 10 p.m. local time on Saturday, March 9; that’s 6 a.m. the same day in Los Angeles. A commute and a 15-hour private jet flight would land Swift at LAX around 10 p.m. or so on Saturday night, or about 21 hours ahead of the Oscars. She’ll get some practice in a similar whirlwind situation this weekend, when she jet-sets from a Japan show to catch boyfriend Travis Kelce in Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas. A bit more motivation awaits Swift in Sin City than in the City of Angels.
If the Emmys failed in part because TV is just not film, and the Globes succeeded because of “Barbenheimer,” well, the math works in favor of the 2024 Academy Awards. The especially accessible pair of Best Picture nominees and their shared scheduling risk reached way beyond film buffs and into popular culture. High intrigue from a general entertainment audience usually results in high ratings for live TV events; it is about the only thing that reliably works on the typically fragmented audiences of the streaming era.
There’s one more factor at play here, and it could go either way: The Oscars have a new time slot. On March 10, the Academy Awards will begin one hour earlier than usual, at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT; that’s typically red-carpet time. An earlier telecast is better for the end of the show (more people will be awake and available to watch), but the change could cause some regulars to miss the beginning of the telecast.
The main benefactor of the shift to 7 p.m. will be ABC sitcom “Abbott Elementary,” which will premiere a new episode immediately following the Best Picture acceptance speech. Regardless if the Oscars are up or down, with a (relatively) huge lead-in, “Abbott” will likely enjoy its most-watched episode ever. Finally, a win for TV!
The most-watched Academy Awards ever came in 1998, when “Titanic” won Best Picture. That broke the 1995 record of 48.3 million total viewers, when “Forrest Gump” bested “Pulp Fiction” and “Shawshank Redemption” to claim the evening’s final trophy.
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