With Netflix’s SAG Awards, can streaming save award shows?

We’re looking at you, Golden Globes. The Oscars, probably not yet.

We saved the Screen Actors Guild Awards! Or at least as much as can be saved at every award show these days. On December 11, SAG and Netflix announced that the SAG Awards will be moving to Netflix after a stop on YouTube.

Next month, the SAG Awards will be streamed live on Netflix’s YouTube page, which has 25 million subscribers. It’s the first time in 25 years that the actors-only awards show will not air on TNT and TBS, two fully distributed cable channels currently owned by cost-conscious Warner Bros. Discovery. In 2024, the SAG Awards will stream live on the Netflix app, which had more than 223 million paid subscribers at the end of 2022.

Viewership for the SAG Awards dwindled on cable: last year’s ceremony averaged just 1.8 million. After Netflix’s in-house technology catches up with YouTube today, here comes Netflix to make things right.

But how much of a push can Netflix provide? They averaged 4.6 million daytime viewers in December 2022, according to Nielsen measurements provided to IndieWire for this story. On the same full day basis, TNT and TBS were in the 300,000-350,000 range. (Also, according to Nielsen, broadcast networks attract 2-3 million viewers per day.)

By comparison, Netflix has the potential for a very big push — but the SAG Awards will be Netflix’s first awards show. They will be a major step forward for the streamer’s live programming, which will launch in March with a Chris Rock comedy special. Rock’s stand-up, which will almost certainly touch on its own huge awards show moment at the 2022 Oscars, represents a low-risk trial for Netflix.

“The SAG Awards are loved by the creative community and viewers alike, and now even more fans will be able to celebrate these talented actors from around the world,” said Béla Bajaria, head of global television at Netflix, when announcing the SAG Awards partnership. “As we begin to explore live streaming on Netflix, we look forward to working with SAG-AFTRA to elevate and expand this special ceremony into a global live event in 2024 and beyond.”

BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 10: 80th Annual GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS - Pictured: (l-r) Nick Hall, Mike White and Mark Kamine accept the award for Best Limited Series or Anthology Series or Movie Made for Television "The white lotus" onstage at the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 10, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.  -- (Photo by Rich Polk/NBC via Getty Images)

Mike White accepts the award for Best Limited or Anthology Series or Movie Made for Television for “The White Lotus.”

NBC via Getty Images

Netflix’s “Basic with Ads” plan launched late last year, but initial results are meh: According to research published by Antenna in December 2022, Basic With Ads was Netflix’s least popular plan in November. Conquering live will be key if Netflix is ​​serious about expanding its ad footprint.

“The type of show that attracts advertisers the most is the live event,” Stephen Galloway, dean of Chapman University’s Dodge Film School, told IndieWire. “It helps them transition to advertising, helps them do live events and stay relevant.”

Galloway says it’s a win-win for both Netflix and SAG. At a time when interest in awards shows is waning, linear television networks can hardly justify being the highest bidders. The same is true for sports.

“Isn’t the question where the audience will be?” Galloway said. “It’s ‘Who’s going to pay the most for the audience?’ It’s interesting that it’s happening at a time when everyone is spending less, including Netflix.”

The SAG Awards aren’t the first awards show to jump from linear television to streaming. Amazon Prime Video began streaming the Academy of Country Music Awards live in March 2022; it previously aired on CBS, NBC, and ABC since 1998. The ACMs will air again on Amazon’s streaming platforms in May. The Tonys, which continued to air on CBS, even handed out some non-televised trophies on Paramount+; This week’s Golden Globes were available on both NBC and Peacock.

Ratings for the long-declining awards show are not improving. Prior to 2021 (the ’22 Globes were not televised), the Golden Globes regularly topped 18 million viewers. This year, the Golden Globes drew 6.3 million viewers, down 10 percent from the 2021 show and the lowest since (at least) the show returned to NBC in 1996. (Numbers prior to digital records were not available.)


The ACM Awards are now live on Amazon Prime Video

Courtesy of CBS

But don’t turn every award show in town — especially the Oscars — over to streamers just yet.

“We believe in the power of live events,” Craig Erwich, president of ABC Entertainment, Hulu & Disney Branded Television Streaming Originals, told IndieWire on Wednesday, calling the Oscars “the Tiffany of Tiffany of live events.”

“As with any show, we’re always thinking about what opportunities we have for our shows to succeed and helping viewers find that. It will be on ABC right now,” Erwich said. “We’re using every part of the Disney organization to promote and market the show, which has been extremely effective and I think the Academy really appreciates it.”

“Currently” is the key phrase for a guy who also owns Hulu and has more than a hand in the Disney+ deals.

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