Red Carpet Redo: Rebranding America’s Award Shows

4 min read


It’s the best time of year for popular culture watchers: When the entertainment business is abuzz with chatter around this season’s glittery award shows.

Rock stars are hitting the red carpet Sunday at the Grammy Awards while Hollywood’s A-List prepares for the Feb. 9 Academy Awards. And the afterglow of the Emmys, SAG Awards, and Golden Globes won’t wear off until the final champagne flute is drained at the last Oscars’ post-party.

But even with frenetic media around award show season, a dark cloud of ratings uncertainty looms. Network television is sharing more of its audience with streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, YouTube, and Hulu and it’s affecting all broadcasts, including award shows.

According to Statista, 2014 was the last year that the Oscars had more than 40 million viewers, with 43.7 million. From 2015 to 2017, the number of viewers hovered in the 30 million range. But the last two years, it dropped even further, to the 20 million range. And according to USA Today, the 71st Emmy Awards, last year, had the lowest number of viewers since the award show started to track its viewership in 1990. A total of 6.9 million people tuned into Fox to watch. The previous lowest viewed show was in 2018 which had 10 million viewers. This year’s show was a 33% decrease from last year.

At Well Done, we’re split fifty-fifty—half of us watch and the other half don’t.

The situation got us thinking about what might be done to give entertainment’s biggest nights the boost they need to grab more of America’s increasingly fickle attention span.

A few ideas:

Hosts aren’t necessary.

Last year’s Oscars proved this point when Kevin Hart bowed out as host, wasn’t replaced and the broadcast ran smoother, keeping to three hours without running overtime, and wound up with a 12 percent ratings increase over 2018.

Going hostless also negates concern over what happens if he or she tanks and creates additional time for other parts of the show, including an additional performance or hearing more from the winners of Best Picture. Those speeches are often significantly more fun and interesting to watch than an opening stand-up routine.

More raw moments 

We don’t watch to find out who wins anymore; we have social media for that. What we tune-in for are the unscripted moments when we see our favorite stars shine and, at the same time, behave oh-so-normally.

Consider Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s smoking duet of “Shallow” from the Academy Award winning “A Star is Born”—one of the greatest-ever Oscar moments. Scripted or not, it’s a year later and we’re still trying to determine what actually happened there.

Another showstopper came in 2017 when Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, having been handed the wrong award cards, announced “La La Land” as Best Picture when the winner was actually “Moonlight.” While the whole episode was embarrassing and heartbreaking for the cast of “La La Land,” the chaos that ensued was both historic and fascinating.

Become more interactive

Not to take away from the seriousness of winning a big award, but throwing in some people’s choice categories would engage new audiences.

We can vote for most things online, so maybe viewers could weigh in on the best dressed, best acceptance speech or moment and those could be announced later.

A live Tweet stream tracker might could also be added. They would obviously have to be curated but it’d be fun to see what the television audience is saying in real time.


Our apologies to all the awards-show enthusiasts who love every last minute of a three-hour extravaganza (There are plenty of those among Well Done’s staff). But if Oscar and his pals are going to befriend millennials and their younger cohorts, who grew up with cell phones and 24/7 Internet access, they are going to have to take less time. Probably two hours less.

We’re not sure if it’s possible to broadcast an hour-long award show, and put the rest of the content online, but—with all due respect to cinematographers and costume designers—we really only tune in for the Big 5.

Invite Dolly

Rolling Stone made this wise suggestion a couple of years ago and we agree. Everything is more awesome when Dolly Parton is involved.