With other awards shows having suffered record-low viewership amid a pandemic-prompted pivot to virtual, the iHeartRadio Music Awards will feature an in-person crowd – a move that iHeartMedia’s John Sykes believes could improve ratings.
Most every awards show sustained a double-digit viewership hit in 2020, including a 55 percent year-over-year audience falloff for the Billboard Music Awards (which garnered 3.6 million watchers on NBC; the 2021 edition is set for Sunday, May 23rd) and a 43 percent dip to total watchers for November’s American Music Awards (which attracted 3.8 million fans on ABC).
Furthermore, the Grammys touched a 12-year ratings low on CBS in pre-COVID January of 2020, before slipping another 53 percent, audience-wise, and 61 percent in the 18-49 demographic in 2021. The latter happening boasted performances from high-profile acts including BTS, Cardi B, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish, among several others, but lacked an in-person crowd.
The 2020 Country Music Association Awards also reached an all-time ratings low, with 7.08 million viewers and a 1.1 rating, and the interest falloff hasn’t been limited to the music industry. To be sure, the Oscars secured 23.64 million viewers in 2020 and 10.4 million viewers in 2021, against a record low of 6.1 million watchers for September of 2020’s Emmys and 6.9 million watchers for the 2021 Golden Globes – a 64 percent YoY decline.
Bearing these facts in mind, iHeartMedia president of entertainment enterprises John Sykes, in an interview with Variety, acknowledged the “huge drop in audience” that awards shows experienced after they went virtual. Moreover, the 65-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation chairman expressed the belief that the presence of a physical crowd at the May 27th event will bolster ratings.
“We were well aware of the under-performance of these virtual awards shows,” said the MTV co-founder. “They were experiencing a huge drop in audience, which made it clear to us that people come to these shows to connect with the event nature, to see the larger-than-life moments that just couldn’t be duplicated by virtual performances in a small room.
“It worked early on with the living room concerts and other moments and will live on, I believe, beyond the pandemic for certain shows. But for these award shows, you really want an escape from your everyday world,” finished the Schenectady, New York, native.
Sykes also mentioned that the iHeartRadio Awards will only admit individuals who’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19 – with an emphasis on healthcare professionals and first responders, he specified – and that iHeartMedia will test all guests for the bug prior to entry.
Plus, the former VH1 president appeared to take a shot at the Recording Academy over the Grammys’ voting controversy, stating that when it comes to the iHeartRadio Awards, “there’s no backroom committee making choices that make no sense to the fans.”
The iHeartRadio Music Awards are scheduled for Thursday, May 27th, once again, and it’ll be interesting to see whether a physical crowd aids the happening’s atmosphere – potentially drawing more viewers (and saving the awards-show format) in the process.