After every award show, comparisons are drawn between how many people watched the show from year to year. If the numbers are down, many blame the host or the projects nominated for awards. If the numbers are up, all is well.
But despite ratings fluctuations, awards show viewership has stayed pretty stable in the 21st century. There's good reason for this — awards shows need to be watched live, rather than later on DVR. (The 2015 Emmys, VMAs, and Tonys haven't happened yet, so we don't have viewership data for them.)
There are some notable outliers in this graph. The Golden Globes' ratings dropped massively in 2008. But that number is so low because the Globes were presented as a press conference in 2008 because of the writers' strike. (Members of the major Hollywood guilds boycotted awards shows until the strike was over. It was resolved by the Oscars, but not in time for the Golden Globes.)
Similarly, the 2012 Grammys saw a massive spike in viewership from numbers in the mid-20 millions to nearly 40 million viewers. That year, singer Whitney Houston died the day before the telecast, and the awards hastily threw together an all-star tribute to the music legend.
With those outliers noted, there are some interesting conclusions we can draw from these numbers: the ratings of most awards shows fluctuate from year to year but still maintain a healthy viewership depending that year's nominees or performers, and that the Grammys are the hottest awards show of the 2000s.
The Grammys dropped substantially in viewership in the early part of last decade, but the broadcast was revamped to focus more on star-studded performances and less on awards. This move to more of a televised concert format proved successful, and the Grammys have overtaken the Golden Globes to be the second most watched award show by a large margin (between 5 and 8 million). The Academy Awards, however, are holding tight to their lead as America's favorite awards show.
Here's the raw data we used to make this chart: