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The Emmys virtual awards show sees a decrease in viewership

Awards season kicked off with the 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 20, honoring television’s biggest stars in a socially distanced virtual awards show.

Unlike previous years, this year’s ceremony was fully virtual, hosted by late-night host Jimmy Kimmel who broadcasted live from the Staples Center while nominees’ watched and accepted awards from their homes. 

Nielsen TV ratings reported that the Emmys’ ratings hit an all-time low at 6.1 million viewers. Prior to this year, the ceremony was already experiencing a significant decline in viewership from 21.8 million viewers in 2000 to 13.5 million viewers in 2010. 

Olivia Ransbottom, a sophomore theatre and political science major, said she was not aware of awards shows happening virtually and that she “kind of forgot they existed” amid the pandemic. 

Kylie Aoki, a senior political science and philosophy major, shared a similar reaction. 

“I honestly didn’t know they were happening in quarantine or the semi-quarantine state we’re in,” Aoki said. “I heard about the nominations, but quickly lost track of what was happening.” 

While many students did not tune in this year, they said they watched the Emmys in previous years. 

“If I had nothing to do, I would watch them with my mom and grandma,” Téa Scott, a senior finance and IT major, said. “But now that I have school, I don’t see it much as a priority anymore.”  

For the 2020 Emmys, social media was the main outlet in finding the night’s biggest wins and losses. Listen First Media reported that though there was a lack in television viewership, there were over 800,000 tweets mentioning the Emmys. 

Scott and Aoki said they discovered highlights from the night through social media. While Aoki said she stuck to a combination of Instagram and YouTube, Scott said she found her news primarily through Instagram. 

“If something major happens, like a special win, I’ll usually see it on Instagram,” Scott said. “So it’s like, what’s the point of watching it when I can easily look up to see who won?”

Some students said they would have paid more attention if the award show was an in-person event, largely in part because of the pre-show, red carpet interviews and recap shows. 

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Ransbottom said that “a lot of people like to watch award shows for interviews on the red carpet and the fashion of it all,” which the Emmys lacked due to the pandemic. 

Aoki said that although nominees dressed up to take pictures, “I still wanted to see a recap after to see what they wore because that’s something I tune into.”

Ransbottom said she believes that virtual events are experiencing a lack of viewership since not only do they lose a personal feeling, but they are also virtual. 

“I feel like it’s because kids spend all day going to meetings and doing homework on laptops, and they are sick of looking at a screen,” Ransbottom said. “So if there’s an optional Emmys viewing, they’re not going to watch it because you don’t care about it anyway. Add the screen, minus the red carpet and everyone’s at home.”

Charis Edmond can be reached at


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