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With scant viewing for its TV return, what’s next for the Golden Globes?

Steven Spielberg wearing a tuxedo and holding two Golden Globe Awards
Steven Spielberg won two Golden Globes Tuesday night for “The Fabelmans.”
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
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America did not miss the Golden Globe Awards.

After a one-year hiatus, the ceremony televised Tuesday on NBC averaged 6.25 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. The figure is down 10% from 2021, when 6.9 million viewers watched the event presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. The show drew nearly 19 million viewers as recently as 2019.

NBC did not air the Golden Globes last year after a February 2021 Los Angeles Times investigation raised concerns about the HFPA’s ethics and financial practices and revealed that not one of its then-87 members was Black.

The show’s organizers now have the opportunity to shop the franchise to other outlets, and NBC must decide whether the show provides value to its broadcast network or streaming service, Peacock.

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‘The Fabelmans’ and ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’ score top awards, but the big winner might be the Hollywood Foreign Press as it tries to win back some relevance.

Jan. 10, 2023

While the Golden Globes scandal was a hot topic in Hollywood, much of the rest of the country was likely not up to speed on the HFPA’s issues until show host Jerrod Carmichael referenced them in his monologue.

The small audience for the 80th Golden Globes is more likely due to the ongoing trend of the TV audience turning away from awards shows in general, as every major trophy event, including the Oscars and Grammy Awards, has hit ratings lows in recent years.

Younger viewers are content to watch video clips of the proceedings, rather than sit through a three-hour-plus telecast with commercial breaks.

Some TV-industry veterans believe the politicization of awards shows, which have become earnest affairs in recent years amid the social upheaval in the country, is a turnoff for traditional TV viewers looking for escapist entertainment.

The Golden Globes’ appeal has long been its irreverence, which included wink-at-the-camera gags about the HFPA’s legitimacy. As the group has been subjected to serious scrutiny over its practices, though, it was a challenge for this year’s telecast to replicate the freewheeling atmosphere that made the Golden Globes a fun watch in the past.

The HFPA’s scandal did give NBC the opportunity to get out of its last contract to carry the Golden Globes, said to be close to $50 million a year. The network is not committed beyond this year’s telecast, and any future deal would likely be well below the previous price tag.

ABC and CBS would both consider picking up the Golden Globes if NBC passes, according to several network executives who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

Richard Licata, a former NBC and Showtime executive who consults on awards shows, said the network would likely think long and hard about letting go of a well-known franchise, even one as damaged as the Golden Globes.

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“Can NBC afford to give up something that someone else will snatch and possibly make even bigger?” Licata said. “The world is too competitive to start giving up real estate.”

Licata noted that NBC long felt the Globes were important because the network needed an awards show tentpole, as ABC has the Oscars and CBS has the Grammys. He also believes the show has value because it can bring attention to quality films and programs that are otherwise overlooked, which has become all the more important, as fewer people are going to cinemas.

The HFPA has come under pressure for not having any Black members as well as allegations of ethical and financial lapses raised in a Times investigation.

April 21, 2021

While the ratings were hardly robust, NBC executives privately said the show was qualitatively good enough to consider returning. They were relieved to see high-wattage celebrities in the audience, including Brad Pitt, Rihanna and Steven Spielberg. Spielberg’s latest film, “The Fabelmans,” won for best motion picture — drama; he was also honored as best director.

But apparently there is still work to be done, as many Black A-list talent, including Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes — one of the harshest critics of how the HFPA conducted itself in the past — were absent.

The Golden Globes has gotten up off the mat after getting knocked down in the past.

CBS aired the program at one time but dropped it after the 1982 ceremony, when Hollywood was shocked by Pia Zadora’s win for new star of the year for her performance in a little-seen film called “Butterfly.” Her then-husband, Meshulam Riklis, had backed an extravagant publicity campaign that was widely perceived as bribing HFPA members.

For the record:

5:44 p.m. Jan. 11, 2023A previous version of this story said that the Golden Globes aired on TBS until 1993.

But cable television was emerging in the 1980s, and Ted Turner was looking for an awards show property for his TBS channel. He picked up the rights, making it the first major TV property to move to cable, where it aired until 1995, when it moved to NBC.

The TBS move demonstrated how there is always an outlet looking for programming to help stand out from the pack. The landscape is similar in today’s TV industry, as streaming services are competing for an edge in their battle for consumers.

In a recent interview, Todd Boehly, a billionaire entrepreneur who serves as interim chief executive of the HFPA, told The Times he already has his eye on a streaming deal for the Golden Globe Awards, which he believes is necessary to get more younger viewers to watch.

“I want to be free to go have conversations with other streaming platforms, where the audiences [are],” Boehly said. “Because I’m not convinced that in three years, the average age of a broadcast network audience isn’t beyond the audience that we want to be accessing.”

While Boehly is correct that younger viewers have flocked to streaming for video entertainment, a TV network partner would still be necessary to maintain critical mass for the event, at least in the near future.

When considering a deal for the Golden Globes, a TV network will look at whether the telecast can turn a profit or break even as an ad-supported show while serving as a promotional platform for its other properties. A streamer will be willing to pay more in pursuit of an event that gives consumers another reason to subscribe to a service.

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More than 20% of consumers who switch from pay TV to streaming are influenced by the content offerings of a service, according to a recent report by MoffettNathanson.

Streaming services are moving into the live event business. On Wednesday, Netflix announced it will offer the SAG Awards, which had aired on TBS. Last year, the Academy of Country Music Awards moved from CBS to Amazon’s Prime Video.

But walking away from network TV has its risks. No single streaming service comes close to broadcast TV’s ability to reach more than 90% of U.S. households.

Prime Video has delivered large audiences with its exclusive stream of “Thursday Night Football” this season, but there is still a desire among many viewers to watch the old-fashioned way. The NFL requires that all “Thursday Night Football” games be available on TV in the local markets of the teams that played. According to station owner Nexstar, more than 70% of local viewers watched the games on TV.

Although younger viewers are gravitating toward streaming, show business rituals such as awards shows are wedded to tradition. Without a TV deal, it may be difficult for the Golden Globe Awards to draw big-name guests, long the driver of the show’s appeal as a ramshackle, insider party.

But the chance for artists to hold a gold statuette and thank their parents, spouses and agents in front of a live audience is expected to remain a powerful draw.

Times staff writers Josh Rottenberg and Stacy Perman contributed to this report.

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