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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Trends: Are Awards Shows Losing Relevance?

As they lose viewership, awards shows are increasingly disconnected from younger audiences.

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Over the past four years, awards shows, such as the Golden Globes, Emmys and Oscars, have faced record-low ratings. Shifting patterns in viewership among younger audiences and the popularity of streaming —which produces an oversaturation of content—seem to threaten the relevance of awards season among the next generation.

Award show ratings generally fluctuate year to year based on the popularity of the nominees and the hype surrounding specific award decisions. For example, the highest-rated Oscars ceremony occurred in 1998 with 87 million viewers, largely generated based on hype for the film “Titanic,” while in 2023, the Academy Awards brought in roughly 18.7 million viewers. 

Other award shows have hit record-low numbers. The 2024 Emmys, for instance, retained a viewership of 4.3 million– a record low. This is indicative of the overall decrease in cable television viewership. According to the Pew Research Center, 61% of Americans from the ages of 18 to 29 do not have subscriptions to cable television.

Statistically, younger audiences are less invested in awards show programs. According to Variety, the median age of viewers for the four top telecasts — Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys and Grammys — is over 50, which is an increase of more than 10 years since 2000.

Regardless of low trending viewership for film and television awards programs (Golden Globes and Emmys), the 2024 Grammys amassed 16.9 million viewers. This is an increase from last year and their highest television audience since the pre-COVID show in 2020. According to Forbes, “The Grammys ratings rebound comes at a time when viewing to a number of long-running and top-tier awards shows have bottomed out over the past few years.” What might be different about the Grammys?

Sophie Salomon ’26 theorized that it is easier to keep up with new music while navigating a busy schedule which helps the Grammys feel more relevant. She attested that she listens to music often while studying or walking to class, but that it is more difficult and less appealing to stay up to date with enough television and movies to make watching the other awards shows feel worthwhile. 

“I have way less time to watch the shows and movies that are even nominated,” Salomon said. “When I look at who’s nominated — like the names, movies, shows, and songs — I think the Grammys are definitely the one that I know the most about because staying up to date on music is the most accessible while I’m busy at college.”

Although most awards shows are now accessible on streaming platforms, many younger audiences do not feel the need to tune in to a three-hour broadcast. Genevieve Shahin ’26 echoed these sentiments.

“I definitely read about them,” Shahin said. “I don’t usually watch them because they are really long, and I don’t have the patience.”

Apart from the time commitment watching an awards broadcast requires, many young people, such as Evan Jaffe ’26, are also simply less invested in the concept of awards shows. In an age when there are so many different options for watching and listening available, awards shows that pick out a mere handful of shows, actors, films and music can feel irrelevant.

“If clips from the big [awards] shows pop up on my Instagram, I read it, and then I move on,” Jaffe said. “I just don’t really see it affecting how I would change my viewership or my listening. I don’t care about what’s popular. I care about what my friends and I like to watch and listen to.”

Salomon emphasized a collective frustration with awards shows’ prioritization of popularity over quality content, making them feel less genuine.

“I think a lot of it is about popularity,” Salomon said. “Sometimes it’s great. But, and I’m saying this as a Taylor Swift fan, I don’t think ‘Midnights’ should have won. I think it was just about the popularity and also because she had a crazy year. But I think other albums and other songs were more deserving, generally.”

Lakshmi Jain ’26 also underscored the lack of consideration of actual talent or quality of content.

“I feel like a lot of it is to please the public,” Jain said. “So, obviously there are going to be really great pieces that are missed out on, which I think is good and bad because if they nominated things no one was watching, then no one would watch the show. But also, the people that deserve to win, definitely don’t always win.”

Frustrations over a lack of diversity among the nominees and winners of awards have also concerned younger audiences. In 2015 and 2016, all 20 of the Oscars acting nominations completely excluded people of color. 

“I think there are definitely a lot of issues with awards shows,” Shahin said. “I remember a few years ago, there was a ton of controversy surrounding the diversity of actors and actresses who were nominated. It was very whitewashed.” 

Following this #OscarsSoWhite scandal, the Academy, a group of roughly 10,000 voting members, has taken steps to amend its diversity issues. They doubled the number of female members as well as members of color, which currently stand at 19% percent and 33% percent, respectively. Shahin identified more room for growth — acutely recognized by young people, even those who barely follow awards.

“I think that is still a big issue,” she said. “A lot of movies and TV shows don’t necessarily get nominated due to systemic issues within the industry and our society.”

Shannen Gallagher ’26 agreed with Shahin that representation at awards shows could be better. Gallagher proposed a system wherein nominees are picked by the Academy and the public has some weight in the voting among nominees.

“I think it’s not 100% representative of what should or could be represented,” Gallagher said. “At the end of the day, it’s just decided by a small group of people.”

As young people grow more apathetic about awards shows, these programs must evolve to capture not only the attention but also the appreciation of the next generation. One way forward lies in promoting diverse perspectives and awarding work for its quality rather than its popularity among the masses.