Why Live Award Shows Have High Value, Even When We Hate Them

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Award shows are a booming business these days. Ratings have been climbing year by year, and networks are definitely paying attention — and packing their schedules to the brim.

There are at least 19 televised award shows airing between the start of the year and the broadcast of the Academy Awards on March 2.

"Networks love it because it's one of the few 'DVR-proof' programs out there," Matt Belloni, executive editor of The Hollywood Reporter, tells NPR's Arun Rath. "That's the buzzword in television right now — anything you put on that might be DVR-proof is going to be extra high value."

Belloni says the notion of live-event television has become even more important when you factor in social media.

"There are very few places in this splintered media universe where you can turn on your TV, watch something live, have something to talk about and then go on and start talking with people online," Belloni says.

A recent example Belloni points out is NBC's The Sound of Music Live! Though the production was widely slammed by reviewers, 18.5 million viewers tuned in.

"There were a lot of people being very mean and snarky on Twitter and Facebook during that show," Belloni says. "But according to NBC, they're like, 'Who cares ... say as many mean things as you want, as long as you're paying attention.'

"I think that a lot of people are looking at what Sound of Music did, and they're saying, what's the equivalent there?"

And more live-event-style broadcasts are being born. Since 2011, Hallmark Channel has broadcast the Hero Dog Awards. Major networks are bringing in new televised awards and revitalizing old ones. In May, NBC will relaunch the American Comedy Awards, which ran on ABC from 1987-2001.

Another way networks are capitalizing on these award shows is by producing surrounding programming to generate even more buzz. Instead of a simple press conference to announce Grammy nominations, CBS broadcast The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!!

Still, sports rule the world of live television, with Sunday night football standing as the No. 1 rated show. Belloni says award shows capitalize on a demographic that sports may leave out.

"Award show appeal toward a more female demographic," Belloni says. "There's a reason why the Oscars are referred to as the Super Bowl for women."

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