Golden Globe ratings sink to a record low, sounding a warning to the Oscars

For those wondering what Oscar ratings might be like in this pandemic-impacted year, based on the off-a-cliff results for Sunday’s Golden Globe awards, the forecast could be to look out below.

Globes ratings plummeted more than 60% from the 18.3 million viewers who watched last year, per Nielsen data, to an average audience of 6.9 million. While the Globes have a long and uneven TV history — at times airing in syndication, on cable and for a time after an earlier scandal, not at all — that’s the lowest tune-in since NBC acquired the broadcast rights in the 1990s.

NBC noted that the audience did top the Emmy Awards in September, but that’s hardly an accomplishment, since those numbers hit a record low as well. All indications are that the appetite for award shows — already steadily declining — has been dealt a serious setback in a year where many movie theaters have been closed and much of film distribution has out of necessity migrated to streaming services.

The big winners in the top movie categories — the drama “Nomadland” and satirical comedy “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” — premiered on Hulu and Amazon, respectively.

In addition, employing a virtual format — featuring bicoastal hosts in Tina Fey and Amy Poehler — robbed the Globes of its usual free-wheeling atmosphere, resulting in a broadcast that was filled with technical glitches and awkward moments.

Low ratings are only one of the issues facing NBC and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the organization that presents the annual awards. Reporting in the Los Angeles Times exposed new ethical questions about the group as well as the absence of any Black members, a fact that has drawn criticism from key Hollywood figures, prompting HFPA representatives to promise to address the latter problem during the broadcast.

NBC has thus far had no comment regarding the latest reports about the HFPA, which derives most of its revenue from the broadcast license fee and donates much of that to charitable endeavors.

Like the Globes, the Academy Awards were delayed by roughly two months this year, with nominations due out March 15 and the ceremony to air on April 25.