Oscars Producer Admits ‘Vast Swaths’ of Americans Turn Off TV When Celebrities Talk Politics


At least one producer behind the Oscars is aware of the reality everyone at home already knows: celebrities giving political speeches during awards shows is a surefire way to kill ratings.

Speaking to The New York Times for a report on the steep decline in the number of Americans who tune into the Oscars each year, one unnamed producer admitted there are “vast swaths” of viewers who turn their TVs off when celebrities begin using the platform to talk politics.

From The Times:

Increasingly, the ceremonies are less about entertainment honors and more about progressive politics, which inevitably annoys those in the audience who disagree. One recent producer of the Oscars, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential metrics, said minute-by-minute post-show ratings analysis indicated that ‘vast swaths’ of people turned off their televisions when celebrities started to opine on politics.

Despite the waning viewership, the producers for the awards show plan to focus this year “less on winning and instead make sure the notably diverse group of nominees has a better-than-average time making the event more communal and intimate.”

Viewership numbers for the Academy Awards have been in steady decline since 2014, when around 40 million people watched the show. In 2020, roughly 24 million Americans watched the Oscars — a 20% drop from the year before, according to Statista.

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The Grammys is seeing a similar trend. In mid-March, when the Grammys aired, only 8.8 million Americans tuned in, showing a 51% decline over last year’s 18.69 million viewers, per The Hollywood Reporter.

As for the Oscars, which airs this Sunday, some of the dip this year will likely be because so few Americans are familiar with the movies up for nominations. For example, a survey from Guts + Data, a research firm focusing on entertainment statistics, found that only 18% of active film watchers had even heard of “Mank,” the Netflix movie leading the way with 10 Oscar nominations.

The most widely known contender for the best picture prize, “Judas and the Black Messiah,” has only 46% awareness. And the show’s frontrunner for the top prize, “Nomadland,” registered only 35%.

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While those in the entertainment industry seem wont to blame the decline on the unique circumstances of the pandemic, it’s important to point out that Nielsen ratings of the Oscars reveal viewership of the show has been in a steady free fall since 2014, losing some 44% of its viewers from then to now.

Comedian Ricky Gervais, 59, put Americans’ disdain for celebrities’ political speeches front and center last year, when he delivered his opening monologue for the Golden Globes — a scathing rebuke of Hollywood elites.

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