Hybrid Future: Agora + TVU Networks Power Virtual GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony & Critics Choice Awards
Real-time engagement (RTE) has once again proven itself as a powerful means to connect people around the world. This time, we teamed up with TVU Networks, a market and technology leader in cloud and IP-based live video solutions, to help lay out the virtual red carpet for two of the most high-profile awards shows of the 2021 season—the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony and Critics Choice Awards.
Through both the 2020 and 2021 awards show seasons, Hollywood has been faced with the new challenge of taking traditionally in-person events online. The question: To host or not to host? The verdict: The show must go on. With much of the glitz and glam of award day contingent on elaborate musical performances, elegant outfits, and champagne toasts, producers were left to figure out how to make a virtual award ceremony just as exciting. Let’s say the road was anything but smooth.
Bringing the party to virtual award shows
With a bevy of bad press surrounding awards shows hosted via Zoom, the challenge of going virtual was—and remains—a daunting one. The 2021 Golden Globes were rife with audio malfunctions, awkward transitions, and a few near-missed speeches due to lags. Shortly after the awards show aired, Variety released a piece covering all the mishaps, titled, “As If Award Shows Couldn’t Get More Awkward, Enter the Zoom Golden Globes”. Similarly, Vogue wrote a piece lambasting the 2020 Emmy Awards as “our worst nightmare: a giant Zoom call”. With such harsh reception, it’s not hard to understand why many producers toyed with the idea of skipping hosting their events altogether.
TVU Networks saw these snafus as an opportunity to provide a solution tailor-made for awards shows. After all, if these events are meant to entertain, why did we ever lean on a solution meant for workplace meetings? It just doesn’t make any sense. By integrating Agora’s voice, video, and live streaming technology into their TVU Partyline feature—a cloud-based, broadcast-quality video conferencing platform—TVU Networks was able to pair their expertise in broadcast with the powers of RTE. The end result? Two awards shows worth dressing up for, and which marked a new era of both hybrid and fully virtual events.
2021 was the most-streamed GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony of all time
TVU Networks pulled off an impressive display at this year’s GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony. The ceremony featured over 70 award presentations, along with several musical performances. The back and front ends of the ceremony were powered by TVU Partyline, which connected remote attendees, crew, hosts, and producers from all around the world in one, seamless cloud-based platform. For organizers, this meant the ability to meet with nominees ahead of their speeches to ensure they felt prepared and comfortable. It also provided them the ability to meet with other producers in real-time to ensure the smooth execution of the show. For nominees, it meant easy, live webcast access to accept their award or “wow” the crowd with their performance on the virtual stage.
What’s better? The ceremony boasted the highest streaming rates of all time—clocking in at an impressive 83 percent more live streams compared to 2020. Simultaneously, the show also saw more nominee participation than ever before. Historically, around 15 – 20 percent of nominees can’t participate in the in-person ceremony due to scheduling and travel conflicts. However, by holding a hybrid event, TVU Networks was able to supercharge nominee attendance.
RTE made the virtual Critics Choice Awards fun
Similar to the GRAMMY Awards Premiere Ceremony, the 2021 Critics Choice Awards challenged our idea of what it means to put on a virtual event. TVU Networks used Agora’s RTE technology to uplevel the experience of the show by routing cast member’s individual Partyline live streams to virtual tables. This created an atmosphere of camaraderie, sitting entire casts “together” exactly as they would have been if the event were held in person. Unlike merely tuning into a one-dimensional video conference, actors, actresses, and crew members experienced a sense of closeness.
For viewers, this created a much more entertaining spectacle and resulted in a 75 percent retention rate for watching the entire show from start to finish. What does this prove? Leveraging RTE to make viewers and attendees feel more connected is the key to hosting a successful virtual event. The Critics Choice Awards was a perfect case study on what can happen when producers go beyond video conferencing and create a virtual environment that captivates, entertains, and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats (or couches).
The future is hybrid
With vaccines rolling out and folks getting fidgety at home, we would be remiss to not acknowledge the urgency to get back to hosting in-person awards shows. Despite the fact that Hollywood is chomping at the bit to roll out the physical red carpet, producers have been able to see the vast benefits of incorporating a virtual component into their ceremonies. So long as “podium acceptances” and scheduling conflicts exist, an option to tune in or attend remotely will continue to be critical to viewers and nominees alike.
As we look toward a brighter future when social distancing becomes a distant memory, Agora is excited to see how pioneers like TVU Networks will continue to leverage the power of RTE to increase accessibility, participation, and viewership through exciting, hybrid broadcasts. After two awards seasons of experimentation, successes, and failures, we remain confident that we will emerge from the pandemic not wanting to return to “normal.” Instead, we will emerge to an entirely new reality where distance never prevents us from gathering and live streaming makes every seat feel like it’s in the front row.