Why The Grease Sing-along Instead Of The Tony Awards.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of chatter about what CBS might air on Tony Sunday instead of the actual, aborted, Tonys.

I heard about Best Ofs, Tributes, and a whole host of other ideas (including some with some pretty big celebrity hosts).

And at the end of the play, CBS chose Grease.

Ok, ok, I’m not giving them full credit.

They chose a Grease sing-along.

A wop baba loo bop a wop BS.

This was a hard one for us Broadway avids to take.   The Tonys is our Super Bowl, our Masters, our Christmas, and Hannukah rolled into one for some!

And now that night will consist of four chords and three jokes.

Now listen – I actually love me some Grease.  Those four chords and three jokes are some of the most brilliant around when you calculate how many people this show/movie/classic has kept smiling over the past 50+ years (not to mention how much money it has made).

So, I apologize for knocking it.  It’s just I love the Tonys that much.

What happened to all those other ideas?  The Best Ofs and so on?

What happened is what usually happened . . . someone added up the cost of a revised “Tonys” (as well as the time and logistics involved in making it) and compared it to the cost of showing Grease.  Guess what won?

See, it’s not so easy to just pull old Tony Awards footage out of a vault and show it . . . like you can pull an old movie out of a vault and show it.  The Tony Awards telecasts weren’t set up for replays.  And it’s just too expensive to do it.  So our sister-in-show-biz, the movie industry, has a leg up on us here.

But hopefully, this will teach us that we need a mechanism in place for situations like this (as I wrote about here), and our lack of flexibility with what we can do with our content is causing us to lose the battle.

We’ll win the war.  Because nothing replaces live.

And in the meantime, on Sunday, June 7th, I’ll just watch Netflix instead.

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Broadway Grosses w/e 7/7/2019: Closing Time

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending July 7, 2019. The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League.

Broadway Grosses w/e 6/30/2019: Moulin Rouge! Dazzles

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending June 30, 2019. The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League.

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


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.

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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.

Broadway Grosses w/e 6/23/2019: Mockingbird Soars

The following are the Broadway grosses for the week ending June 23, 2019. The Broadway grosses are courtesy of The Broadway League.

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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