Amazon places bet on streaming, fast-paced music awards show

FILE - This April 7, 2019 file photo shows Reba McEntire on stage at the 54th annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas. Amazon has seen solid returns from its investment in streaming live sports, but its upcoming bet on the Academy of Country Music Awards is more of a gamble. The show will air exclusively on Prime Video this Monday night in a sped-up, two hour concert-like format without commercials. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File) (Chris Pizzello, Invision)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Amazon has seen solid returns from its investment in streaming live sports, but its upcoming experiment with its first live music awards show is more of a gamble.

The 57th annual Academy of Country Music Awards from Las Vegas will air exclusively on Prime Video Monday night in a sped-up, concert-like format without commercials.

But as most awards show have been grappling with year-over-year declines in ratings on broadcast channels, the question remains if fans will make the switch to streaming.

Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon Studios, said other live music events they have hosted, including a Ye and Drake benefit show in December, shows their interest in a growing area of streaming content.

“You can see that it’s an area we’re investing in, and we think it helps build an exciting live opportunity for customers to be able to share a bigger cultural moment around content that they love," said Salke.

Drawn by the ACM's reputation for having a fun, inviting and inclusive atmosphere, the streaming service sought to connect that with its large audience of country fans that listen to Amazon Music. For fans that want an even more music-focused experience, Prime Video will be offering a performance-only edit of the show.

“We feel pretty confident in our massive country music audience base ... that we will be able to invite a lot of people in and we think they’re going to come and have a great time," said Salke.

Hannah Avery, a client manager from Kantar Entertainment on Demand, said that live-streaming of NFL games on Amazon has lured more subscribers to the streaming platform.

“Just the NFL alone accounted for 4% of new signups, within Q4 of 2021,” said Avery.

But Avery said the type of live content matters. Paramount+ had streaming rights for the Grammys last year, but that did not come up as a motivating factor for new signups to that service, Avery said.

Measuring the success of the streaming only awards show will be based how many people tuned in and how many new subscribers joined to watch this specifically. But Avery noted that another key metric will be long-term gains for Prime Video.

“If someone is joining to watch something very specific, how do you keep them engaged after that and have them not cancel?” Avery said, who predicted that regardless of how well the ACMs do on Amazon, she expects to see growth in streaming live events.

R.A. Clark, the longtime producer of the ACM Awards, said Amazon challenged him to significantly rethink the awards show format. This year's show, which will be shot inside Allegiant Stadium, will look like a sports event, with three stages, overhead spider cameras, non-stop action and heavy on graphics.

The awards will be handed out in segments, rather than spread between songs, with one 35-minute block of performances with no interruptions.

“It allowed us to throw out all the conventions and put them back together and rearrange it,” said Clark.

All content on Prime Video is commercial free and this award show will include a shoppable version of a red carpet pre-show with merch curated by Amazon Fashion.

“In the Amazon world, we have customers now. It’s no longer a passive viewing experience," said Clark.

But for artists like Jimmie Allen, who is co-hosting the show along with Gabby Barrett and host Dolly Parton, streaming is the future of country music.

“It’s definitely new, especially for country music," said Allen, who will be performing twice during the show. "As country music continues to continues to expand, we have a lot of people that listen to pop and hip hop and they are used to having things right away and they are used to not waiting.”

Allen is looking forward to the two-hour show, even if that means there's less room for mistakes.

“The ACMs this year is kinda like how I like to gamble: You get in quick and get out quickly," he joked.

The new streaming format means fewer distractions for fans at home, Allen said.

“The biggest thing you want to do with the show is hold the viewer’s attention and don’t give them an opportunity to turn the channel," said Allen. "If they turn it, they might miss something.”