Golden Globes Ratings Slip as Ricky Gervais Brings Back His Lager-Fueled Insult Comedy

5% Demo Drop as Many Big Names Are Shut Out

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Ricky Gervais, Mel Gibson mug it up for Globes audience.
Ricky Gervais, Mel Gibson mug it up for Globes audience. Credit: NBC Universal

The return of cheeky snark goblin Ricky Gervais may have taken some of the shine off the Golden Globes, as NBC on Sunday night kicked off awards season with slightly lower ratings than it delivered a year ago.

According to rush live-same-day Nielsen data, the 73rd Golden Globe Awards averaged 18.5 million viewers and a 5.5 rating among adults 18 to 49, marking a 4% dip versus the year-ago 19.3 million viewers and a 5% decline from the 2015 ceremony's 5.8 demo rating. Sunday night's broadcast also marked a 15% drop from the 6.5 demo rating delivered by the 2014 Globes, which posted a 10-year ratings high.

Among the top sponsors in Sunday night's broadcast were JPMorgan Chase, L'Oreal Paris, Volkswagen, Discover Card and Verizon. Along with the tens of millions of dollars NBC generated in paid ads, the network also set aside a good chunk of inventory for in-house promos for shows like "Superstore," "Telenovela," "The Blacklist," "Shades of Blue" and the upcoming ensemble comedy "You, Me and the Apocalypse."

While the Golden Globes generally tend to draw just a fraction of the Academy Award audience -- last year's uncharacteristically low-rated ABC broadcast averaged 37.3 million live-same-day viewers and an 11.0 in the demo -- the Globes show is widely (if erroneously) seen as a sort of bellwether for how the Oscars will shake out. What the Hollywood Foreign Press Association's vote says about the state of the TV industry is another matter altogether.

But for Jon Hamm, who snared his second Globe for his portrayal of Don Draper on AMC's "Mad Men," and Taraji P. Henson, the lifeblood of "Empire," broadcast's top-rated scripted series, the TV awards were all over the place, and favored niche series. Nominated for eight awards, more than any other programmer, Netflix was shut out completely. Seven-time nominee HBO claimed one statuette thanks to Oscar Isaac's little-seen performance in the six-part David Simon miniseries "Show Me a Hero."

Amazon's "Mozart in the Jungle" beat out the likes of "Veep," "Silicon Valley," "Transparent" and "Casual" for Best TV Series, Musical or Comedy; Lady Gaga inexplicably beat out the likes of Felicity Huffman ("American Crime"), Kirsten Dunst ("Fargo") and Queen Latifah ("Bessie") for Best Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie; and Rachel Bloom won a surprise victory for Best Actress in a TV Series, Musical or Comedy for her titular role in the CW's "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" -- broadcast's lowest-rated scripted series (876,000 viewers, 0.3 demo).

Then again, if nothing else, Gaga's win gave us this.

If HFPA voters characteristically set aside matters of commercial success when making many of their TV picks, they didn't overlook the impact "Mr. Robot" has had since bowing last summer on USA Network. Currently the top-rated USA scripted series in the C3 currency, the jittery hacker strip took home two trophies in its first awards season -- one for Best Drama and another for Christian Slater for Actor in a Supporting Role.

As for the Globes broadcast itself, Mr. Gervais started the night with the sort of comedy that kept celebrity attendees on edge when he hosted the show from 2010 through 2012. Unlike in years past, when he prided himself on tossing some of his sharpest barbs at the presenters themselves, most of Mr. Gervais' targets were watching at home (or, presumably, not at all); among those he laced into were Caitlyn Jenner, Bill Cosby, Roman Polanski, Ben Affleck, Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen.

One notable exception was Mel Gibson, who was on hand to introduce a clip for "Mad Max: Fury Road." Mr. Gervais took the opportunity to make a callback to Mr. Gibson's 2006 DUI arrest, in an exchange that was bleeped out by nimble NBC censors.

Over the earlier three-year span in which Mr. Gervais hosted the Golden Globes, the broadcasts averaged 17 million viewers and a 5.2 in the demo. NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt asked the comedian to emcee this year's show after 2013-15 Globes hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler said they would not return for a fourth show.

Awards season rolls on with the 58th Annual Grammy Awards on CBS (Monday, Feb. 16) and the 88th Annual Academy Awards on ABC (Sunday, Feb. 28). Oscar voters turned in their ballots last Friday, and the nominations will be announced on the morning of Jan. 14. As multiple nominations for blockbusters tend to ensure big Oscar ratings, ABC is undoubtedly hoping for a big showing by "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

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