A Rare Chance To Learn Why Something Went Right

The 2024 Golden Globes are in the books, and to many who consider themselves keepers of the flame, it was a horrific viewing experience.   A good deal of that opinion was driven by the opening monologue of a previously obscure comedian named Jo Koy, who managed to tick off not only almost everyone with a social media account,  and certainly most of the reviewers for the trade press that covered it, but even allegedly somewhat more objective reporters such as TIME’s Cady Lang:

After a string of controversies in recent years, the 81st annual Golden Globes on Sunday night should have been a bid to return to awards show relevancy, but the ceremony’s host made that an uphill battle. Comedian Jo Koy, who was announced as the host just two weeks before the ceremony, opened the show with a monologue that was cumbersome, contentious, and profoundly uncomfortable, setting the tone for a night that failed to impress.

Koy’s lowest point in a decidedly unfunny monologue was cracking a joke about Barbie that unintentionally highlighted the underlying sexism that the film faced—and, in many ways, the point of the whole movie.  “Oppenheimer is based on a 721-page Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the Manhattan Project, and Barbie is on a plastic doll with big boobies,” he said. “The key moment in Barbie is when she goes from perfect beauty to bad breath, cellulite, and flat feet. Or what casting directors call character actor!”

All well and good.  I didn’t laugh, either, to be honest, but I watched the encore telecast after the Dolphins blew their chance at the AFC East title with an emotionally wrenching home loss to Buffalo, so I wasn’t in the best mood to begin with.  So I’m not the best barometer or sounding board.

And, to be fair, the show itself beyond that was pretty much perfunctory.  Most of the eventual winners were chalk; virtually no one was willing to make a politically incindiary acceptance speech after all.  There weren’t even too many references to the strikes that all but crippled the ramp-up to this awards season aside from Koy’s lame post-mortem that tried to explain his material on the short time and lack of help he had to craft his jokes from.  No Bruce Vilanch in this room, to be sure.

And WOW, were there articles and alerts.  Naturally, an event that’s now owned by a media mogul that also owns several trade publications would send out alert after alert for every single announcement–which, if you had a device at your disposal would effectively make the need to even watch the ceremony optional.

Yet amidst all of this carping and hand-wringing the one article that mattered most to me was this one from (yes, the Penske-owned) VARIETY’s BreAnna Bell:

In its first year airing on CBS, the Golden Globes hit 9.4 million total viewers, jumping 50% from 2023’s performance, according to time zone-adjusted fast national including Out of Home ratings from Nielsen.

The 2023 show hosted by Jerrod Carmichael, which aired on NBC and was available for streaming on Peacock, recorded a 1.1 rating among the key adults 18-49 demographic and 6.3 million viewers, which was down from the previous year.  

On Paramount+, the Sunday night show also broke a record for the streaming service as it reached the largest live-streaming audience for an awards show across Paramount+ and other CBS platforms since The 65th Grammy Awards aired in February 2023. The showing marks the “second-largest live-streamed CBS special event on Paramount+ ever in terms of AMA and reach.” The awards show landed the top trending spot on social media with nearly 30 billion potential impressions.

The way that secretive media companies will allow any information to trickle into public consciousness was never more obvious than in that last paragraph, since we have no idea exactly how many viewers anything on Paramount+ has.  And as for the social media figure–well, remember, that includes an awful lot of negative nellies choosing to vent their thoughts.

And even that 9.4 million total viewers, which is likely to be adjusted to some extent later today when program viewership (versus the data from yesterday, which reflects viewing to a CBS affiliate at a particular time regardless of what was on), is still less than half of what NBC was able to achieve in 2020, when the far funnier and popular Tina Fey and Amy Poehler hosted and the last time a “normal” ceremony was telecast on a Sunday night.

But yet–and this can’t be stressed enough–almost nothing in this day and age goes up 50% from all but the lowest of bars.  And it’s a LOT more than almost anyone who offered predictions from the companies that compete with the Penske-verse–yes, that’s especially YOU, Ankler and Puck—were willing to allow themselves to go on the record with.

I’ve been part of plenty of organizations that sound alarm bells when expectations and benchmarks show negative trajectories.  I’ve hastily scheduled surveys and focus groups at rush prices, budgets be damned, to try and ascertain why something didn’t work.  It was much less common, and usually the decision of more even-tempered and mature executives, to try and learn more about why something DID.

Well, Jay Penske and team, let me strongly suggest you seize upon this unexpected success to be even-tempered and mature.

Because, face it, you’re a free agent now, and it’s quite obvious what I used to call those “west of the 405 and east of the GWB” think.  Those are who you’re negotiating with.  They’re the ones who know the X-eeters and Facebook posters who thought your show was a train wreck–until, of course, Nielsen came into the picture.

They may ultimately answer to more bottom-line oriented people who respond favorably to plus signs (even if they’re attached to money-losing services that insist on using them in their branding).  But they, too, would appreciate knowing a bit more about who, what, and especially WHY at least three million more people with meters chose to watch this year’s Globes versus last year’s.

Could it be as simple as it being on a Sunday night vs. a Tuesday, especially with lousy weather in a great deal of the country?

Was the audience growth signficantly higher among a particular age/sex cohort?  Region of the country?  Political ideology?

Were they Swifties?  Were they there because they knew she, as well as Team Barbie, would be in the room?  In other words, two things they actually did see in a theatre?

Or–heaven forbid–were they indeed the kind of people who actually would laugh at a joke about “boobies”?  Maybe the same kind of people who would find someone like this relatable and funny?

In which case, that’s worth knowing, too.  Might help you find someone better–or, by next year, someone more acceptable–than even Jo Koy was.  If anyone.  You know, an awards show in this day and age doesn’t necessarily need a host.  Might save a few bucks to the bottom lines, too.

These may be considered uncomfortable questions.  The answers might prove to be downright disturbing to many.   OTOH, they may actually be amplified by some others.

But at least all of that debate and discourse would have some foundation in reality.  Not merely opinions, even from those in the forgotten flyover states.  Or those who are either too busy or social media-avoiding to be among those 30 billion impressions.

You have a unique opportunity, Jay Penske and company, to actually learn from your success.  To not only take a victory lap, as you’re entitled, but actually educate your detractors and snarkers that against all odds and clearly the backlash of many of those you attempted to celebrate, you did something right.  And maybe put on notice the ensuing awards shows to perhaps pay more attention to the fact that giving the public at large what they know and want, rather than try and force-feed them a diet of what they think they should consume, is as on point in media as it is, say, in fast food.  And, sorry to say, politics.

We used to do that kind of research.  Many of us still can.  And, frankly, plenty of our dance cards are open.  Because most of what was tried in 2023 wasn’t as successful at attracting an audience or exceeding expectations as were this year’s GOLDEN GLOBES.  And our skill sets were deemed more immediately expendable when the knee-jerk reaction to those underperformances occurred.  We’re damn curious about what happened here if only out of self-interest.  We’d encourage you all to think along the same lines.

Let’s put a pin in the online debate and bitching.  Ask a representative sample of those 9 million viewers, especially the ones who weren’t part of the 6 million from 2022, what changed their minds.  And what it might take to bring them back, as well as possibly move a few more into the win column, in 2025.

C’mon, Jay.  Judging by what you gave away in swag this year, you’ve got the money.  Throw a smattering of it at those of us who can actually help you make more of it.

Find out why–or if–you’re Right.

Until next time…

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