BY THE NUMBERS: Is it the show itself or awards shows in general?

The Tony Awards telecast took some shots from the press this year, many of which I still can’t understand. I enjoyed the show, as I wrote about here, and most theatergoers I spoke to did as well, including you.

The most quantifiable piece of criticism was (on the surface) the ratings.  “Viewership 10% down,” headlines screamed.  “Will CBS drop the show?” articles asked, like teenagers gossiping about whether or not the most popular couple in school would break up.

And most came to the conclusion that if the show was, ahem, better, viewership would go up.

That’s where I disagree.

First, I’m not surprised that viewership was down.  In fact, I’d postulate that if Hamilton opened this year, the Tony Awards would have had fewer viewers than it did when Hamilton was the focal point 3 years ago.

That’s because the way people consume entertainment is different.

In 2015, when Hamilton opened, millennials especially were ditching TV screens (and the live viewing that goes with it) at an alarming rate, causing a drop of 10.6% that year.

So, while it’s easy to point to the content as the problem, ratings are no Occam’s razor . . . the simplest answer is not always the right one.

And I think there’s another reason the ratings fell . . . and it’s not the Tony Awards show that’s the issue, it’s all awards shows.

I went to the numbers and looked at the ratings for the three major Awards shows since 2010.

Here they are . . .

 Year Viewers (Millions)
Tony Awards Grammys

Oscars

2010 7.59 26.60 41.62
2011 8.39 26.55 37.90
2012 6.01 39.91 39.46
2013 7.24 28.37 40.38
2014 7.02 28.51 43.74
2015 6.46 25.30 37.26
2016 8.73 24.95 34.43
2017 6.00 26.05 32.94
2018 6.32 19.80 26.50
2019 5.47 19.90 29.60

 

And here they are in a graph, which paints the picture even more clearly:

As you can see . . . it ain’t just us.  So folks should stop pointing the finger at the production of the telecast and actually look at the ground that’s changing under our feet as we tap dance.

And those other awards shows are losing viewers at an even greater rate than we are (partly due to the many more millennials in their primary demographic).

It also just may be that awards aren’t as important to audiences anymore.  Or that the audiences know that these telecasts are more about marketing than anything.  Or that some of them (I’m talking to you, Hollywood) don’t represent the diverse field of the medium.  Or they are so filled with scandal (you again, Hollywood) that people are turning them off.

Or maybe our viewers are watching, just later, on their own schedule, instead of live.

Or maybe, just maybe, people want instant information (duh) and want to find out who won, but just want to see it in their social media feed later, rather than sit through three hours of commercials and stuff.

The way people view TV and movies has shifted and will continue to do so.  So, of course, the number of viewers of our awards show is going to go down.

Luckily for us, as compared to our sister industries, a screen is not where our primary content is consumed.  🙂

That’s why while viewership of the Tonys may be 10% down, our attendance in our actual theaters (where it really matters) is 10% up.

– – – – – –

What will Broadway look like next season?  Get my predictions and forecast for next year in next week’s blog.  Sign up here to make sure you don’t miss it.

Episode 157 – Tony Award Winning Director, Rebecca Taichman

Rebecca Taichman won a Tony Award for directing on Broadway . . . for a show she conjured up in grad school.

Through years of determination, steadfastness, ego-checking, and intense collaboration, she took her wisp of an idea . . . and forged it into a Broadway play called Indecent.

She’s the equivalent of a theatrical entrepreneur.  Instead of just toiling away in the regionals forever and ever, she made her own @#$% happen.

And then the universe thanked her with a Tony.

Tune in to hear what kept her going through those years, as well as:

  • How being objective about her performing and writing is one of the reasons she’s a success.
  • What question she asks herself about a play before she signs on to direct it.
  • Straddling the line between wanting to direct great plays while trying to make a living.
  • What it’s like on her first day of rehearsal.
  • The difference between being a woman director yesterday . . . and today.  Has it changed?

And lot’s more.

So listen in to Rebecca’s inspiring story that says yes, an idea you have in a university library can make it to Broadway.

Click here for the link to my podcast with Rebecca!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Episode 157 – Rebecca Taichman

Rebecca Taichman won a Tony Award for directing on Broadway . . . for a show she conjured up in grad school.

Through years of determination, steadfastness, ego-checking, and intense collaboration, she took her wisp of an idea . . . and forged it into a Broadway play called Indecent.

She’s the equivalent of a theatrical entrepreneur.  Instead of just toiling away in the regionals forever and ever, she made her own @#$% happen.

And then the universe thanked her with a Tony.

Tune in to hear what kept her going through those years, as well as:

  • How being objective about her performing and writing is one of the reasons she’s a success.
  • What question she asks herself about a play before she signs on to direct it.
  • Straddling the line between wanting to direct great plays while trying to make a living.
  • What it’s like on her first day of rehearsal.
  • The difference between being a woman director yesterday . . . and today.  Has it changed?

And lot’s more.

So listen in to Rebecca’s inspiring story that says yes, an idea you have in a university library can make it to Broadway.

Listen above to my podcast with Rebecca!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

 

Podcast Episode 156 – David Lindsay-Abaire

 

David Lindsay-Abaire wrote about a half-dozen plays before he ever considered himself a playwright.

Now, he’s got a big ol’ Pulitzer Prize to remind him of what he is and always will be, in case he ever forgets.

David told me the story of how he went from a guy in high school whose friends made him write a play, to a playwrighting student at Julliard, to the author of that Pulitzer Prize-winning play Rabbit Hole, Shrek, and more on this week’s podcast, and it’s a page-turner.

We also chatted about:

  • How his first play was a rip-off . . . and why.
  • What he looks for when he reads plays from prospective Julliard students, and how he usually knows in 3 minutes whether a writer has got “it” or not.
  • Why early readers of his work didn’t respond to Rabbit Hole and why.
  • How he uses “office hours” to meet his many deadlines.
  • His writing group that has existed for over a decade, and how it has helped him succeed.

It won’t take you very long into this podcast to realize why The Julliard School, which graduated him a few years ago, asked him to run the program.  David isn’t only a skilled writer . . . he is one of the few artists out there who can teach the craft, as well as the business of the craft . . . and he does a lot of that on this very podcast.

So tune in!

Listen above to my podcast with David!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

Podcast Episode 155 – The Profilic Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer Nelle Nugent

Nelle Nugent is one of Broadway’s most prolific play Producers, and she started out as a Production Assistant.

She worked her way to the top at a time when women weren’t supposed to be anywhere near the top, and she’s got the stories to prove it.

But more than 50 shows later, she’s also got the successes to prove why she is one of our industry’s best.

I was lucky enough to get to sit down with Nelle to talk to her about some of her biggest hits (Dracula, The Gin Game, ‘Night Mother, The Dresser) and how Broadway has changed since her days as a PA, as well as . . .

  • What can make a great play fail.
  • How raising money for Broadway has changed over the last fifty years.
  • What she did to overcome the resistance she got for being a female Producer.
  • The chance encounter that led her to produce Dracula and WHY it became a hit (Hint: it didn’t have anything to do with what was on the page.).
  • When reviews matter and when they do NOT.

What we often forget is that Broadway is not that old of an industry, and people like Nelle helped lay the foundation for the work we’re all doing now.  We not only owe Producers like her a debt of gratitude, but if we listen closely to how they got where they are today, we might just learn how to get to where we want to be tomorrow.

Enjoy Nelle!

Click here for the link to my podcast with Nelle!

Listen to it on iTunes here. (And if you like the podcast, give it a great review, while you’re there!)

Download it here.

 

Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

I'm on a mission to help 5000 shows get produced by 2025.

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