The 78th Golden Globe Awards could end up being the smallest incarnation of the event in history — and not just because current events forced the show into the virtual realm. Early Nielsen numbers indicate that Sunday’s NBC broadcast could become the lowest-rated event since the award show began being televised.
Nielsen’s early numbers for the 78th Golden Globes stated that the event averaged around 5.4 million viewers and a 1.2 rating in the key 18-49 age demographic, which is more than a 60 percent decline in each category compared to the ratings for 2020’s Golden Globes. Early Nielsen statistics do not include viewership of the live show from the Pacific time zone or out-of-home viewing. A full report will be released Tuesday.
Those figures will likely improve the show’s viewership, but a sharp decline is still inevitable. Early numbers for the 78th Golden Globes mark a steep decline compared to last year’s early numbers, when the show averaged 14.8 million viewers in preliminary ratings.
The dismal early ratings for the Golden Globes don’t come out of nowhere. Award show ratings have been steadily falling for years and the trend shows no signs of reversing, particularly as more film and television fans cut the cord in favor of streaming. The 2020 Emmys, which was also held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, reached only 6.1 million viewers — an all-time viewership low for the second straight year.
Unlike last year’s Golden Globes, Sunday’s event didn’t benefit from an NFL playoff game as its lead-in. That said, the 78th Golden Globes didn’t face as much competition as the 2020 Emmys, which competed for viewers with Sunday Night Football and an NBA playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets.
Also unsurprising is the fact that Sunday’s mostly-virtual telecast — a Golden Globes first — fared especially poorly compared to awards shows that are held in-person. There might’ve been a virtual red carpet on Sunday, but awards shows sell themselves on their ability to gather large groups of celebrities in-person and create a festive and star-studded atmosphere, two things that the coronavirus pandemic have effectively put on hold.
The latest Golden Globe Awards ceremony also wasn’t aided by positive publicity. The awards show and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which organizes the annual event, were the subjects of a February Los Angeles Times report that HFPA members have engaged in self-dealing and created various ethical conflicts. The report also noted that the HFPA, which does not have any Black members, had a history of overlooking acclaimed Black-led films for its top award. The Golden Globes and the HFPA had been criticized by the media and a variety of film and television industry professionals in the days leading up to Sunday’s telecast, which unlikely did much to boost interest among potential viewers.
Fans of some of 2020’s most popular releases were also given little incentive to tune in to the festivities; IndieWire’s Ben Travers noted that HFPA voters snubbed a handful of popular and critically acclaimed titles leading up to the Sunday telecast. Titles such as HBO’s “I May Destroy You,” Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” and Amazon’s “The Boys” might have received critical acclaim or commanded legions of viewers, but the HFPA’s exclusion of those titles meant that their fans had no reason to tune in to NBC to see if their favorite shows would win awards.