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6.9 million viewers watched the Golden Globes ceremony, an all-time low for NBC

Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler during the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards.
Hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler during the 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards.
(NBC)

Plagued by scheduling issues, social-distancing limitations of the pandemic and internal controversies, NBC’s telecast of the 78th Golden Globe Awards attracted the smallest audience since the event moved to the network in 1996.

According to Nielsen data, the program averaged 6.9 million viewers. falling dramatically below the previous low of 14.9 million viewers in 2009, the year after the ceremony was canceled due to the writers’ strike.

Last year, the Golden Globe Awards telecast was watched by 18.4 million viewers, making it one of the most-watched nonsports programs of the year.

The week leading up to the event was clouded by the revelations of a Times investigation that examined the practices of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which administers the awards. The report highlighted allegations of self-dealing, ethical lapses and the absence of Black members in the organization’s ranks, leading to sharp criticism from activist groups, entertainment industry guilds and a handful of high-profile stars.

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The Golden Globe Awards ceremony has long been one of TV’s most popular annual events due to its ramshackle, party-like atmosphere that brings together the biggest stars from film and television. But like every other TV awards show in the past year, the event turned into an overdressed Zoom meeting, with the requisite technical glitches, making it a challenging viewing experience.

The ratings also likely were hurt by the delayed date for the telecast, which was moved from its customary early-January slot because of the postponed release dates for numerous films. In the past two years, the Golden Globe Awards telecasts were preceded by a late Sunday afternoon NFL playoff game on NBC, which provided a potent audience lead-in and promotional platform for the show.

The record-low ratings are a troubling sign for ABC’s April 25 telecast of the Oscars, which also will have to deal with social distancing and a lack of theatrical hits. The Golden Globes honored “Nomadland” as best dramatic film, which has earned just over $1 million at the box office as movie theaters in many major cities remain closed.

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The Oscars hit a ratings low in 2020, with 23.6 million viewers.

While the circumstances for Sunday’s record-low audience for the Golden Globe Awards were beyond the HFPA’s control, the timing could not be worse as the organization is under intense scrutiny on a number of fronts.

There is a history of having the hosts of the Golden Globe Awards joke about the legitimacy of the HFPA, but The Times’ report and its aftermath gave an additional edge to the gags delivered by the show’s hosts, Tina Fey, based in New York and Amy Poehler, appearing at the ceremony’s traditional location, the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

“We all know that awards shows are stupid,” Fey said. “But the point is, even with stupid things, inclusivity is important.”

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There was also a brief onstage appearance by three HFPA officials who said the organization was committed to diversifying its membership. The association’s membership has not included a Black journalist in at least 20 years.

The HFPA has been criticized for not recognizing with its top awards any of the critically acclaimed films featuring Black performers, such as “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “One Night In Miami...,” or such TV series as “I May Destroy You.”

A number of Black artists were honored in the acting categories, including the late Chadwick Boseman and Andra Day, who was the first Black actress to win in the film category in 35 years. Day won for her performance in “The United States vs. Billie Holiday” while Boseman was honored for “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

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In a letter sent to the HFPA board on Sunday, Time’s Up President and CEO Tina Tchen said the organization has not gone far enough in addressing its diversity issues since being called out last week.

“The HFPA’s statements tonight and over the last several days indicate a fundamental lack of understanding of the depth of the problems at hand,” Tchen wrote. “Your stated version of change is cosmetic — find Black people. That is not a solution.”

A separate letter called for NBC, which has a long-term agreement to air the Golden Globes, to use its influence for change. “Much of the credibility of the Golden Globes is drawn from its affiliation with your network,” Tchen wrote. “NBCUniversal has a reputational interest in fixing these issues.”

NBC had no comment Monday on the Time’s Up letter.


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