Let's Hear It for Awards Shows!
It's truly an honor to get such great publicity
By Kevin Downey -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/16/2003 7:00:00 PM
The seemingly endless lineup of televised awards shows will get longer next month, and, because of strong ratings and healthy ad revenue, there's good reason to think the self-congratulatory celebrations will keep coming.
One of the latest additions is The Commies —an awards show for comedians, not leftists—hosted by Andy Richter that will be telecast Dec. 7 on Comedy Central.
But it won't be the last.
Not surprisingly, these shows proliferate because of the cash they generate. In the short term, that means a bump in advertising revenue, but in the long-term it often means an uptick in a network's name recognition. And though plenty of awards shows are met with viewer disinterest, the potential payoff of creating the next big thing may be too hard to resist.
While audience levels have fallen in recent years for shows like the Academy Awards, the Emmy Awards, the Golden Globes and MTV's Video Music Awards, many of the roughly 100 televised awards shows—of an estimated 565 industry awards ceremonies—still pull decent ratings.
The Country Music Awards on CBS attracted some 21 million people last month and gave the network a sizable win in key demographics.
"We are obsessed as a culture by winning and winners, so awards are something we're always interested in," said Randy Barbato. He had better hope so. He's executive producer of the show that is the logical extension of awards show: The Award Show Awards Show, Dec. 7 on Trio, applauds special moments from awards shows past.
"We want to know what's in the top 10 and what is No. 1," said Barbato. "It feeds into our competitive psyche, and, at the same time, it generates business."
Interest in awards shows, in fact, is so strong that Trio is giving over much of its prime time lineup in December to feature them in a programming block called Awards Mania.
During Awards Mania, Trio will air The Golden Globes: Hollywood's Dirty Little Secret, a documentary about the Hollywood Foreign Press, the group behind the Golden Globes, and the AFI Tribute, honoring actor Robert DeNiro.
The best-known show—with probably the best-known statue—is The Academy Awards ceremony. It was watched by 33 million people on ABC last March and garnered roughly $1.3 million for each 30-second spot, according to Nielsen Media Research estimates. With an audience skewed heavily toward women, the show is seen almost as a Super Bowl for advertisers of female-oriented products.
Last January, about 21 million people tuned into the Golden Globes on NBC; nearly 18 million watched the Emmys on Fox in September. MTV's VMAs were the network's most-watched program this year, with an audience of 10.7 million. MTV's video awards debuted in 1984, which, along with the debut of ESPN's ESPYs in the early 1990s, fueled an offshoot of awards shows on cable TV.
Part of the appeal of the ceremonies is that all involved—the networks that air them and the winning and losing movies, musicians and TV shows—reap publicity.
Celebrities, who are almost never in short supply for awards shows or the red- carpet specials that precede many of them, also get a shot in the arm. Provided they don't do something embarrassing, they can boost their cachet and, in turn, land their next project or, when everything works out, bump up their asking price.
Of course, most awards shows stick to the admirable premise of bestowing honors on those most deserving of them, but there's more to it than that.
"It's all about business," said Barbato. "It's about ratings, it's about selling magazines, it's about selling dresses, it's about selling tickets, but rarely is it about acknowledging talent."
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