To add to the difficulties besetting the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), early TV ratings for its Sunday-night Golden Globes awards show have dropped catastrophically from previous levels. They are likely to become the lowest since the show returned to NBC in 1996.
Ratings agency Nielsen’s early “fast national” figures reveal that the show was 60% down on last year’s edition, drawing around 5.4 million viewers in the 18-49 age group, compared to 14.8 million for a similar estimate last year. The final total is likely to rise – the 2020 ratings ended at 18.5 million after all data was collected – but the 2021 total is set to fall well below the 14.7 million recorded in 2009.
The poor audience figures underscore problems the HFPA are facing, having signed an agreement with NBC in 2018 that earns the organisation around $60m per year for eight years. Coronavirus restrictions forced the show into a virtual format, as well as a shift from its traditional January slot, depriving it of strong lead-in shows such as NFL games that helped boost its figures. The delays affecting the wider film industry also meant that the kind of commercial star-driven films that boost audience numbers were largely absent from this year’s ceremony.
More seriously, the stream of criticism aimed at the HFPA for its perceived lack of diversity and ethical lapses, as well as its underwhelming response to complaints, could have long-term implications for the Globes’ credibility. A recent report in the LA Times suggested that the HFPA was unwilling to reform its membership policy for financial reasons. Tina Tchen, CEO of campaign group Time’s Up, criticised the HFPA for offering a “cosmetic” solution.
Hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the show resulted in big wins for Nomadland and its director Chloé Zhao, as well as The Crown, which took home four awards in the TV section.