TV Networks and Advertisers Can't Get Enough Awards Shows

NBC Will Air the iHeartRadio Music Awards in May

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Beyonce and Jay Z perform at the Grammys on CBS last month
Beyonce and Jay Z perform at the Grammys on CBS last month

TV is getting yet another awards show.

This time it's the iHeartRadio Music Awards, which NBC said this week it will air in conjunction with Clear Channel on May 1. But it's only the latest new awards show as the genre sets new highs for the modern era -- a time when big live audiences are otherwise increasingly rare.

Aside from adding the iHeartRadio Music Awards, NBC also plans to revive the American Comedy Awards in May and introduce the People Magazine Awards later this year. And CBS struck a deal in January to air the Hollywood Film Awards, a 17-year-old event that typically takes place in October.

The newcomers join a crowd of established trophy handouts and industry self-celebrations, of course, that include this Sunday's Academy Awards, last month's Grammy Awards, the Emmys, the Golden Globes, the American Music Awards and the CMAs.

Award shows are increasingly compelling to both networks and advertisers eager for live events that are relatively DVR-proof and spawn a lot of social media conversation.

Much like sports on TV, awards shows can generate in-the-moment experiences that viewers don't want to miss, said Brent Poer, president at LiquidThread North America, Starcom MediaVest Group's branded content division. Social networks, especially Twitter, have added to this urgency.

Already this awards season, the Grammy Awards posted its second most-watched telecast since 1993 and the Golden Globes hit a 10-year high. The American Music Awards in November was the most-watched in four years. And the CMAs brought in its biggest audience since 2009.

The Emmys, Tonys, People's Choice Awards and BET Awards also set records last year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, awards shows have also seen growth in ad dollars.

The Golden Globes generated $30.2 million in ad revenue for NBC in 2013, up from $28.9 million the year prior, according to Kantar Media. The Grammys brought in $72.7 million last year, up from $64.6 million the year prior.

The Academy Awards, which will air on ABC this weekend, is fetching around $1.9 million for a 30-second spot, according to buyers, up from about $1.7 million to $1.8 million in 2013.

Last year's Oscars brought in an all-time high of $88.3 million in ad revenue, a solid increase from $82.1 million in 2012. The telecast last year drew 40.3 million viewers, up from 39.3 million in 2012.

The most-watched Oscars was in 1998, when 55.3 million viewers watched "Titanic" win best picture as Billy Crystal hosted.

Awards shows also give marketers an opportunity to extend their reach on other screens. This year's Golden Globes generated 2.1 million tweets. And during the Grammys, a tweet from fast-food chain Arby's about Pharrell Williams' hat generated 75,000 retweets by the next morning.

But not every awards show is guaranteed gold, so marketers can't just bank on any broadcast that gives out a trophy. The CW's Young Hollywood Awards in August drew just 870,000 viewers in the key 18-to-49 demo, while the Teen Choice Awards on Fox was watched by a million less people than in 2012. TNT and TBS' combined telecast of the Screen Actors Guild Awards in January pulled an audience of 4.6 million -- down nearly 12% from the year prior.

For the upcoming Oscars telecast, the biggest risk will be the nominees' performance at the box office -- even with the expanded nominee slate designed to make sure hits can get slots. "It wasn't a big year for blockbuster films," said Billie Gold, VP-director of buying and programming research, Carat. "Most of the films nominated are independent and smaller films that fewer people saw." Ms. Gold predicts a slight ratings decrease for the Oscars from last year.

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