Will the Golden Globes ratings disaster spell an end to Hollywood's self-congratulation industry?

The answer: No, but it might show that the end is nigh nonetheless. Despite having a semi-captive audience for its awards show, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association staged a historic flop on Sunday with its Golden Globes presentation. NBC drew the smallest audience in the entire history of the Golden Globes, losing 64% of its audience from the previous year:

The pandemic-era Golden Globes sunk to 6.9 million viewers, down a whopping 64% from 2020 and only barely beating the year when a writer’s strike forced NBC to show a news conference announcing the winners.

Last year’s show, in the pre-lockdown era, reached 18.4 million viewers, the Nielsen company said.

Big winners in Sunday’s ceremony were the films “Nomadland” and “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm” and the television programs “The Crown” and “The Queen’s Gambit.”

The writer’s strike curtailed the Globes in 2008 and only 6 million people watched the news conference. Otherwise, this year’s show had by far the smallest audience since NBC began telecasting the awards in 1996.

The Associated Press suggests that the low audience could be related to ethics issues at the HFPA, which had gotten blasted in an LA Times exposé that found no black voting members in its selection process. How many people actually read the LA Times, though? Were more than a few hundred thousand at best even aware of these controversies before the show? I doubt that the 11 million potential viewers across the country who tuned in last year and ghosted the Golden Globes this year even knew about these issues, let alone cared enough to boycott over them.

That’s why the report also noted the “shuddering sound” coming from other entertainment-industry awards shows, especially ABC and the Academy Awards. That has been postponed until late April, by which time the organizers and network hope to get more in-person participation as COVID-19 vaccines become more plentiful.

That’s not the only problem plaguing the awards industry, so to speak. The Critics Choice Awards are next on the schedule, coming up this Sunday on the CW Network. Critics Choice Association chief Joey Berlin sent around a note late yesterday assuring his members that their awards would be way better than the HFPA’s show, but Deadline sounds skeptical:

The Critics Choice Association has its own awards show on The CW this Sunday from 7-10 p.m. ET/PT. Berlin’s Wednesday message was, in part, to assure his organization’s members that “the 26th annual Critics Choice Awards show will be quite different than the Globes – just as our Critics Choice Association differs from the HFPA.”

One can understand why.

Not only were last weekend’s Golden Globes the lowest-rated ever, they have some experts like Deadline’s own Joe Utichi wondering if the HFPA and its show are even fixable.

While the HFPA is comprised of a secret roster of 90-odd — very odd — overseas journalists, Berlin sad his organization is not only transparent, but diverse. “We proudly show our membership roster on our website, with photos, clearly demonstrating our diversity. There are Black and Asian and Latinx names and faces – men and women, young and old – representing virtually every state and major city in the US and Canada and some small towns, too.”

Nothing wrong with that, but … is that what pulls viewers into these shows? Do they do a diversity check before setting themselves up for hours of lectures punctuated by self-congratulation? Viewers used to watch these shows for entertainment and to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrities. When they began transitioning into marathon endurance sessions for progressive didactics, viewers found better ways to spend their time — just as they did with professional sports last year, even with a pandemic seriously limiting their entertainment options.

With that in mind, the SAG Awards has decided to go in another direction:

So, in hopes of avoiding a similar fate, the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Awards, postponed to April 4 after multiple delays, will be entirely pre-taped and span only one hour.

“We’re looking at trying to do a unique award ceremony in an hour and leave people saying, which they very rarely do [with an awards show], ‘Man, I wish we had more,’” executive producers Todd Milliner told Variety in an interview published on Wednesday.

This year’s SAG Awards will proceed sans host and even a physical set, featuring instead a mixture of scripted comedy segments and the ceremony’s hallmark “I Am An Actor” speeches, which will all be shot and edited prior to the broadcast.

Setting a new precedent for ceremonies to come, the winner for each of the 13 categories will be revealed days before the show. Nominees will sign in to various Zoom breakout rooms, where the victor will be announced and deliver an acceptance speech.

The brevity will certainly provide a breath of fresh air, but that format almost guarantees that everything else will be stale. SAG is essentially sucking what little drama and must-watch urgency actually remains in these shows, and replacing it with the speeches that everyone can do without. At least, though, it will only last an hour, rather than the traditional 347 hours of Oscars we get every year.

On top of the politicization, self-congratulation, there’s also one last problem: saturation. How many awards shows does Hollywood expect viewers to watch? Once upon a time, we had two — the Oscars for film celebrities and the Emmys for television celebrities. Now we have the Awards Show of the Week, in which the same celebrities and the same nominees get recycled through various industry voting groups. Small wonder the Golden Globes crashed with all of this baggage; the other awards shows had better think carefully about their investments in further installments.