Why are the Tony Awards getting pushed to Paramount+?
In the latest step toward something somewhat resembling normalcy, Broadway is scheduled to reopen soon. And by soon, we mean September. That means it’s time for the Tony Awards to finally resurface and celebrate all the productions from the truncated 2020-2021 season! However, theater fans will notice the beloved awards ceremony is taking a slightly different approach to its broadcast this year.
For the longest time, the Tony Awards have aired on CBS in their entirety. It’s a decades-old tradition. But we all saw the Oscars a couple of months ago – well, some of us did – and that ceremony proved 2021 is the year traditions are tinkered with at the very least. That’s why this time around, the bulk of the Tony Awards won’t air on CBS, and will go directly to streaming on Paramount+ instead.
Now, before you get up in arms about it, let’s go through the details first.
Mark your calendars
The Tony Awards will take place on September 26th at 7pm ET. The CBS part of the ceremony will start at 9pm ET though, and it will include the live presentation of the three final awards. Titled The Tony Awards Presents: Broadway’s Back!, this special event will present awards for Best Play, Best Revival of a Play, and Best Musical. You know, the big ones.
At the same time, Broadway’s Back! will be about more than just those three awards. The live event will feature Broadway personalities and past Tony winners performing classic theater numbers. And then, of course, we’ll also get performances from the three Best Musical nominees: Jagged Little Pill, Moulin Rouge: The Musical, and Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.
So that’s Broadway’s Back!, and it will run until 9pm ET. In addition to being broadcast on CBS, it’ll also be available on Paramount+, along with the rest of the ceremony. But why are the Powers That Be splitting the ceremony and singling out only the last three Tony awards for broadcast? Why are the rest of the categories being relegated to only being streamed on Paramount+? Let’s get into that next.
It’s been a rough season for the entertainment industry. Granted, 2020 was rough on everyone, but some industries got hit harder than others. The COVID-19 pandemic forced Broadway to close, much in the same way it forced movie theaters to close. And while movie theaters & restaurants found ways to partially open from time to time, Broadway has remained out of the game since early last year.
One of the unfortunate consequences of Broadway’s forced vacation is that the Tony Awards will be honoring shows that haven’t been on stage for over a year. In fact, some of those shows won’t even be returning once Broadway reopens – some productions just couldn’t survive the pandemic. This includes a couple of the leading nominees too: The Inheritance & Slave Play won’t resume performances this fall.
So there’s a concern that general audiences might not care at this point for a Tony Awards broadcast featuring the entire slate of nominations. Sure, there will always be a core audience of dedicated theater fans that will watch the entire ceremony, but it seems like CBS is planning according to the average viewer. Thus, the 7pm to 9pm broadcast will be a combination of greatest hits and the biggest awards.
While it may be a bit of a bummer – a downgrade of sorts – to have the bulk of the Tony Awards go directly to Paramount+ instead of broadcasting regularly, there’s also a positive way to look at this development. Broadway’s Back! is meant to get people excited about Broadway again. It’s been over a year since those famed theater venues were able to operate. The industry could use a bit of extra cheerleading on its side.
The spectacle-oriented tone of Broadway’s Back! is likely to appeal to a wider audience than if CBS went with the standard Tony Awards broadcast. And if it all works out, maybe that standard Tony Awards broadcast will be back next year. But we’re still transitioning out of the major disruptions that 2020 created, so everyone is still adapting. Broadway included.
Are you excited for the upcoming Tony Awards? Are you rooting for a specific production? Let us know in the comments!