Get ready for more Justin Bieber and less Yo Yo Ma.The Grammy Awards and CBS have signed a pact to keep the music awards show on the Eye network for another 10 years, as well as create a new series of two-hour Grammy related specials.
So what does this mean and how did it happen? After a few years of flagging ratings, the Grammys rebounded mightily recently 2011. This year’s February broadcast drew 26.7 million viewers, the show’s largest audience since 2000. It also had its highest ratings in the 18-34 demographic--the holy grail-- since 2004.
It’s a laudable feat and showcases more of what’s in store. As a way to boost ratings, the broadcast has focused heavily on featuring the top pop names. If it can’t find a way to give them a performance slot based on a nomination, such as Lady Gaga’s egg-citing entry this year, it finds a way to shoe-horn them in via catch-all tributes. For example, Christina Aguilera and Jennifer Hudson both found a warbling spot in the Aretha Franklin salute. We can see more of that and more pairings of often non-sensical bedfellows to up the name quotient.
Is this necessarily a bad thing? For purists, of course it is. But the simple fact is when the Grammys tried to give as much time to jazz and classical genres, the roar of viewers changing channels was deafening. In the press room, we used to talk about the dead zone, which was the portion of the show, usually in the last half, that featured a classical salute, possibly jazz, and maybe a Latin number, and the NARAS chairman’s speech. Who knew we’d long for those days? It’s always been a near impossible mission: to try to highlight as many of the different genres as possible in the broadcast to attempt to show that best Native American recording is just as important as Album of the Year. That may be true in some utopian world, but on the Grammy broadcast, just as in Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” some animals are more equal than other.
As you may recall, the Grammys also streamlined the voting process this year by cutting more than 30 categories and combining niche musical genres that used to have their own home. These genres weren’t generally represented on the television show anyway, but now they will be forever banished to the pre-show telecast.
CBS has been the home of the Grammys since 1973, the extension is not that surprising. The agreement also includes the Grammy Nominations Concert Live!! (the Grammys’ exclamation points, not mine). That is the one-hour primetime concert/nominations show that happens in late December (or early January) to announce nominees in key categories and throw in some performances. This year will mark its fourth year.
We’re intrigued to know what the two-hour series of Grammy specials will be but aren’t totally surprised by that. A number of award shows have been spinning off ancillary programming. For example, April’s Academy of Country Music Awards now feature an additional two-hour themed special that airs in May that tapes the night after the ACMs. The Country Music Assn.’s Fan Fest spins its four nights of concerts into an ABC TV special.
The 2012 Grammy Awards will air live on Feb. 12.