Tony Question #3 : How Much Will the Lack of Bette Affect the Tonys Ratings?
Don't be naive about the following: The fact that Bette Midler isn't performing at the Tonys this year is a big freaking deal.
Since new broke last week that due to "staging issues", producers of Hello Dolly! and the Tonys couldn't come to an agreement on how a possible performance would come off. Hello Dolly! Big-wig Scott Rudin didn't want to adjust the design to fit the Radio City Musical Hall stage and the Tonys producers didn't budge on a remote performance held at the Shubert Theatre.
To be honest, both were in the wrong. And when producers go at it, it's the fans that lose.
The biggest star of the biggest show on Broadway is not going to perform on Broadway's biggest night. Please tell me when is the last time that happened.
Ms. Midler isn't blameless here either. She has the clout to tell Rudin and the producers that staging be damned, she's going to perform. But she hasn't done that and likely won't, especially with Tonys rehearsals well underway today. This is where the difference between "Broadway" performers and Ms. Midler lies. But I digress.
While the lack of Ms. Midler performing will have no negative financial impact on the production of Hello Dolly!, they're going to be just fine for the duration of her run, it will be the telecast's ratings that will likely suffer.
Typically the Tony Awards don't exactly pull in a huge number of viewers. For example, there were more people that watched the second week of America's Got Talent (12.2 Million Viewers) than last year's Hamilton dominated Tony Awards (8.7 million viewers). While that might not seem that bad to you, last year's Tonys attracted the most viewers since 2001.
On average, the Tonys usually attract just over 6 million viewers, which I think it this year's ceiling. Without Midler performing and a massive crossover hit like Hamilton and a domination storyline, viewership is certainly going to be down last year. And the timing of down ratings, couldn't be worse.
2018 will mark the final year of a 5-year deal CBS has to air the Tony Awards. While CBS Chief Les Moonves has said in the past that "as long as I'm here, so will the Tonys", the fact that the telecast is an annual money loser for CBS has got to be a growing concern for the network.
And with dips in ratings, the Broadway League's bargaining chips also decrease. Which is why I wouldn't expect to see technical awards of the main telecast anytime soon. When you're the Oscars and pull in 30 Million viewers, you can show whatever you want.
So while I don't think there will be a ratings free fall from Midler not performing, you're certainly going to see a dip. How much? We'll find out on Monday.