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Confirmed: Politics Hurts Awards Ratings (But They Don’t Care)

The pattern is painfully clear to everyone save the reporters who cover Hollywood.

Ratings are sinking for most major awards shows. The Grammys. The Tonys. The Oscars. The VMA Awards. Grammy viewership Jan. 28 cratered by 24 percent for the lowest numbers for the CBS broadcast since 2009.

Who knows how low the March 4 Academy Awards telecast will fall?

Hollywood scribes pin the blame on a multitude of factors. Our increasingly diverse content choices. The rise of social media. A splintered pop culture landscape.

There’s plenty of truth to be found in all three.

Often left unsaid about awards show ratings? The increasingly partisan nature of the events. Dip a toe into the conservative side of social media and you’ll see fury about these preachy, progressive galas.

The recent Grammys telecast was no different. The event addressed immigration, President Donald Trump, the #MeToo movement … all from a stridently left of center perspective. And that was before the unpopular, divisive Hillary Clinton appeared to read a section of the factually challenged “Fire and Fury.”

RELATED: Roeper: Politically Charged Oscars a Sign of the Times

How bad is the awards show ratings problem? So bad even The New York Times took notice. The Gray Lady described the scene at the Grammy Awards and its bifurcated impact.

While the crowd inside Madison Square Garden erupted in applause when Mrs. Clinton appeared with Cher and other liberal musicians in a skit about Michael Wolff’s depiction of a dysfunctional White House, the decidedly political turn of awards shows in the Trump era plays less well in the homes of many Americans, some political strategists say.

It’s about time someone in the media noticed. The New York Times dug deeper, though, revealing something most conservatives have been saying for some time. The hard-left turn of these awards shows is chasing viewers away.

And they have the numbers to prove it.

Producers who specialize in awards telecasts have said that post-show research, compiled mainly from Nielsen, indicates that most viewers dislike it when celebrities turn a trip to the stage into a political bully pulpit. One recent producer of the Oscars said that minute-by-minute post-show ratings analysis indicated that “vast swaths” of people turned off their televisions when celebrities started to opine on politics.

No one should be surprised. Who wants to be lectured to by people whose lives barely resemble the viewers? Now, after learning how the industry stayed silent while Harvey Weinstein allegedly assaulted scores of women, that attitude has only grown.

Seeing it in print and digital is shocking all the same. spotted this trend, too. The news outlet added some helpful context.

“Look at what happened in the NFL and the controversy over kneeling during the national anthem and how attendance was lacking over the last half of the season,” adds [Ron Bonjean], the Rokk Solutions partner. “What really matters is quality entertainment, and if these shows have blatant anti-Trump messages, they can turn people off and cause Trump voters to go elsewhere to look for their entertainment.”

One of’s sources suggests a course correction is coming our way.

“Just remember, Hollywood is first and foremost in the money-making business, not the consciousness-raising business,” says [Steve Ross, a University of Southern California history professor and author of “Hollywood Left and Right: How Movie Stars Shaped American Politics”]. “So if there’s a show, if there’s a network or cable outlet that thinks it can make money by going against the tide of anti-Trump, they’re going to do it.”

The facts don’t align with that viewpoint.

The crowded late night landscape lacks a single right-of-center host. Few TV programs take up any of President Trump’s pet causes. Just the opposite is happening.

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The old saw that show business is just business has never been less true.

Yes, Stephen Colbert has risen to the top of late night by going all-in on Trump bashing. Major awards shows are different. They seek the largest audiences possible, not just a win over any supposed competitor.


Awards galas are million dollar advertisements for their industry. The bigger the Oscars audience, the more likely we’ll want to see some of the nominated movies. The same holds true for the Grammys, The Tonys and the VMAs.

RELATED: Is Hollywood More Out of Touch Than Ever?

So going partisan will hurt viewership and lessen the impact of these events. The folks behind the scenes at these galas understand this. They apparently don’t care.

To them, the liberal message matters more than the bottom line.

Photo by ** RCB ** on / CC BY

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  1. It’s not the money-makers (producers) who are voicing opinions that turn off viewers—it’s the egotistical actors who believe their voices matter that are hurting the bottom line.

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  2. Movie theater owners know this and are pissed. They’re my clients, all of the major players. This is having a major impact on concession sales. So they raise prices to compensate and thats exascerbating the problem. Who wants to spend lots of money to watch the very actor who is insulting you then asking you to support their life style. Its a very serious problem. This is going to have long term issues. Studios need to bring down the hammer on stars. I know the theater owners are speaking up behind the scenes.

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