For years, award shows have grappled with a problem that likely dwarfs all others when it comes to sagging ratings: An abundance of nominees that most people haven’t heard of, much less seen, sapping the incentive to tune in.
If the Golden Globe nominations announced Wednesday are any indication, the 2021 awards season – coming amid the coronavirus pandemic that has deflated movie-going – will put that problem on steroids, while significantly shifting the balance of power toward streaming.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., which presents the awards, as usual reached far and wide for nominees – with a customary emphasis on big stars and international talent – many of them quite worthy, others not so much. The main takeaway scanning the list, however, was the weirdness of it in terms of movies especially that either haven’t premiered yet or seemingly came and went with scant notice.
If you’re not familiar with some of the nominees, in other words, don’t worry, you’re not alone.
In a year without box-office hits, entities like Netflix and Amazon moved to fill the movie void. And in a TV landscape that has already seen widespread fragmentation among traditional channels, new streaming services have splintered the audience’s attention even further – exactly how much no one really knows, since Netflix and its competitors don’t regularly provide reliable data regarding how many people watch them.
Because Netflix is widely available and enjoys vast distribution, it creates a showcase for prestige fare, and the pandemic has likely eroded resistance that the service faced on the movie front. Notably, its 22 nominations in film categories actually exceeded the 20 the service amassed in television, leading the way in both.
Netflix landed three of the nominations for best drama and musical or comedy, as Disney+, Amazon and Hulu brought the streaming total to six out of 10. In television, streamers accounted for 34 of 55 Globe bids, with only one nomination for a traditional broadcast network, for Jane Levy in “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” on the Globes’ host network, NBC.
The nominations themselves don’t address the lingering challenge and logistics of how awards will be presented. The Emmys pulled off an impressive virtual ceremony in September, but saw viewership dip to record lows, in what could well be a harbinger for the awards season to come, with Oscar ratings having already been a downward spiral.
Optimists will scan the Globe categories and find plenty of meritorious work, a wide cross-section of diverse talent, and the knowledge that the awards process will help bring attention to deserving projects. That translates not only into prestige for the honorees but, practically speaking, into more viewing of their work if people are inspired to go out and find it.
Additional nominations will come with this week’s Screen Actors Guild Awards, in a year that has seen the jumbled award calendar expanded into 2021, and the Oscars – traditionally the cherry on top – pushed back until April.
Events like the Globes still provide reason for those recognized to celebrate, and ammunition for that friend of yours who has been urging you to watch “Ted Lasso” or “The Flight Attendant,” even if that means anteing up for a subscription to Apple TV+ or HBO Max.
Mostly, though, the nominations underscore that whatever the new normal will look like for the entertainment industry after the pandemic, “normal” won’t be a term that applies to this year’s awards season.