This story first appeared in the January 17 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Three years ago, ABC executives scoured the calendar for an open date to host an awards ceremony. They focused on the relatively barren late spring. “There was no other big live event in May,” says Mark Bracco, ABC’s alternative vp series and specials. “We said, ‘There is an opportunity here. “
ABC chose to revive the Billboard Music Awards, dormant since 2007. After decent ratings for the first two TV shows, the show in May 2013 jumped 21% to 6.3 million households (live and viewing the same day). “It’s a huge success for us now,” adds Bracco.
PHOTOS: 10 most viewed awards shows
Today there are few or no such gaps in the calendar. As Hollywood’s annual two-month award-giving spree begins on January 12 with the Golden Globes, the reality is that for television networks, awards season now runs year-round. And with notes for the mostly healthy (and DVR-proof) awards shows, the schedule is busier than ever. ABC alone now broadcasts the Oscars (up 10% last year in the key demo for 18-49 year olds), the American Music Awards (up 32%), the Country Music Association Awards (up 47%) and the Miss America pageant in addition. at the Billboard Music Awards (AMAs and Billboards are produced by Dick Clark Prods., owned by THR parent Guggenheim Partners). CBS airs eight awards shows, followed by NBC (six) and Fox (two). Relatively small cable networks like Cartoon Network and Hallmark Channel are now in the award game with the American Humane Association’s Hall of Game Awards and Hero Dog Awards, respectively. There are at least 19 televised awards shows between January 1 and the Oscars on March 2.
Demand is driving up the costs of airing flagship shows at a time when some wonder whether a saturation point has not been reached. “Every time you are successful, it puts pressure on the license fee,” says Jack Sussman, executive vp specials, music and live events at CBS, which stalled the Grammys until 2021 for around $ 50 million a year. Two years ago, ABC preemptively renegotiated to tie the Oscars until 2020 on a contract estimated at $ 500 million. He has the CMAs until 2021 and is negotiating to get back in place with the AMAs, sources say.
STORY: Billboard Music Awards set for May on ABC
As List A shows are not available, the networks are desperately looking for shows to launch or relaunch. “Obviously, getting into the game when something is going on [created or] renewed comes with a huge bonus ”, says Paul Telegdy, head of alternative and nighttime programming at NBC, which brought back the American Comedy Awards in 2014.
Everything does not work. The CW aired the Young Hollywood Awards in August and only drew 870,000 viewers for the 18 to 49-year-old demo, but will try again this year. The Teen Choice Awards on Fox did only slightly better, reaching 1.1 million viewers aged 18 to 49 in August. The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards did relatively well in 2013 on The CW. But the Critics’ Choice Television Awards, which aired in 2012 on ReelzChannel and VH1, didn’t air online until June. He will return to The CW this summer.
EXCLUSIVE: NBC Revives American Comedy Awards
One of the ways that networks take advantage of award brands and justify rising license fees is by creating “halo” programming. ABC added a CMA concert show in June and a CMA Christmas special. The Grammys are now revealing the nominations via a special concert. “If we have 5 or 6 million people listening, compared to the press conference that we used to do, there is no comparison,” says Daniel Portnow, President / CEO of the Recording Academy. Advertisers, especially those targeting women, also love spinoffs. “You can have a lot more [sponsor] activity around the [halo show],” Remarks Brent Poer, president of LiquidThread, which is part of the Starcom MediaVest agency.
Despite the risk of overdoing the rewards, many believe shows will proliferate until networks can find another non-sporting way to boost live listening and social media activity. Portnow notes, “It’s the only thing you want to be there to see it.”