So the Academy Awards aired on February 28, and despite the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, it still managed to pull in some pretty big numbers. A good 5,654,000 tuned in to the Academy Awards, that’s actually up from last year’s audience of 5,526,000.
Out in the U.S., however, ratings for the Oscars dropped quite substantially. Only 34.3 million watched the Oscars, the smallest audience the award show has brought in since 2008.
Some believe that drop has little to do with the controversy around the Oscars’ lack of diversity, but rather things like streaming options, blockbusters getting largely snubbed from the best picture category and just a random assortment of many, many award shows around the same time.
But considering many of those factors also apply in Canada, it wouldn’t make much sense that the American numbers for the Oscars dropped that much, while the Canadian numbers went up. Yeah, I suppose you could say streaming and/or cord-cutting hasn’t quite taken off in Canada as it has in the U.S. and maybe that was a major contributing factor in the drop, but I think you’d be mistaken if you didn’t think #OscarsSoWhite didn’t have an impact in the U.S.
But I know what you’re thinking. You’re likely thinking that if Americans boycotted the Oscars, Canadians probably would’ve done the same considering how similar our cultures are. But there are some differences between our cultures if you look really closely, and boy are they ugly.
When you take a look at some of the most successful shows in the U.S. and Canada, you start to notice a weird trend. You consistently hear of shows like Black-ish, Empire, Fresh Off the Boat, Scandal, Dr. Ken and The Carmichael Show drawing consistently good ratings and/or getting a lot of buzz south of the border, but in Canada, you’ll hear next to nothing and their numbers are often disappointing. What do those shows have in common? Well, they’re shows that have a cast comprised mostly of people of colour. Isn’t that something?
Pretty much all of those shows have been treated poorly, too. Dr. Ken is on CHCH for some reason. Like I mentioned last week, Empire was on Omni for its first season, made it to City for its second, only to get yanked apparently. Fresh Off the Boat isn’t really on Canadian TV. It got shipped off to Shomi. Scandal got yanked for Mom and 2 Broke Girls. Black-ish has probably had the best treatment of the bunch. City even promotes it, but I bet you can’t look me in the face and tell me that’s just because they wanted to simulcast ABC and it’s just a logical companion show for Modern Family. NBC has been hyping The Carmichael Show like there’s no tomorrow, but in Canada, I’m not even sure if any of the Canadian networks have it on their schedule. Its first season aired on Global, but I can’t even find a show page for The Carmichael Show on the network’s website.
For whatever reason, shows with people of colour don’t seem to click with Canadian audiences. I’m not the only one who thinks so, Bill Brioux picked up on this, too. Sure, there are exceptions like CBC’s The Book of Negroes and Little Mosque on the Prairie, but that’s the CBC. Could you imagine the hell they’d have to endure if they didn’t produce any shows with people of colour? Quantico and How to Get Away with Murder frequently make Numeris’ Top Programs list and do have strong women of colour as leads but those are shows with an ensemble cast.
So if you take the disappointing numbers and treatment of shows with casts made up of people of colour in Canada and the wider acceptance of those programs in the U.S., it starts to make sense why you could argue that #OscarsSoWhile had an impact on the Oscars numbers in the States but not much of an impact this side of the border.
However, there’s a much bigger problem here than ratings for a single awards show in two countries. When you step back and look at how white Canadian TV is, you start to see a big problem, a huge problem, that Bell, Shaw/Corus, Rogers and the CBC need to fix pronto. They can start by treating programs with predominately black, Asian and Hispanic casts with respect and choose to actually air them. Oh, and where are native people on CTV, Global, City and the CBC? The only show I can think of starring a native person recently on those networks is Arctic Air and that got cancelled. It’s going to take a lot to get things to change, but hopefully Canadians will rise up and demand more diversity on TV. #CanadianTVSoWhite
For more on the weeks ratings, check out Numeris at the source link.
(Featured Image via Bell Media)