Even as music fans have been stuck at home for the past year, itching for a chance to see some of their favorite artists perform, there seems to be little interest in watching them live on TV in the meantime.

Sunday’s Grammy Awards hit a record low of 8.8 million viewers — down 53 percent from last year’s 18.7 million viewers — according to Nielsen ratings, which tracks television viewing habits.

The ceremony’s poor viewership ran counter to the general positive reaction from those who tuned in to the scaled-down affair. Washington Post pop music critic Chris Richards called it “the most coherent, purposeful, hospitable, gratifying Grammy night of the past 20 years, far and away.”

There was a conscious effort to try to mitigate some of the pitfalls other award ceremonies encountered during the pandemic era. Last month’s Golden Globes were hampered by technical issues that made the Zoom setup feel more like an awkward business meeting than a celebrity confab, while conversely, a lack of gaffes made September’s remote Emmys a comparably dull affair.

As host Trevor Noah told Reuters before the ceremony, Grammy producers “figured out how to make an awards show for the time as opposed to trying to crowbar an awards show into it.” The comedian emceed the night’s televised proceedings from a stage outside Los Angeles’s Staples Center, the ceremony’s usual venue. Nominees and artists who were performing on an auxiliary soundstage nearby rotated in and out of the pared-down live audience (with the exception of South Korean boy band BTS, who performed from Seoul), so there was no chance of connectivity glitches.

Beyoncé broke the record for most Grammys wins for a singer with 28, while Taylor Swift became the first female artist to win album of the year three times. (Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)

Disappointed networks may lean on the fact that pandemic-era ratings for live events are down across the entertainment spectrum. The Golden Globes saw a 64 percent drop in viewers, setting an all-time low with 6.9 million; for comparison, the new CBS hour-long drama “The Equalizer” caught more eyes (7.5 million viewers) in the same 8 p.m. time slot. Even this year’s Super Bowl, typically a surefire viewership bonanza, saw ratings nosedive to a number not seen since 1969.

Some experts are not convinced that there’s an ongoing sea change in viewership habits, and low ratings can be chalked up to an aberration of scattershot viewing over the last year at home. But there are some relevant considerations that could shed some light on the diminishing returns for award shows.

While television ratings are the still the biggest game around in terms of generating advertising dollars — and the Grammys ceremony was Sunday night’s highest-rated broadcast regardless of overall decline — many media companies are pouring resources into streaming platforms in the all-out effort to keep the divided attention of cord-cutters. That strategy appeared to pay off: Variety reports that “it was the most-streamed Grammy show ever with 83% more live streams compared to 2020,” and was still a top trending topic on social media platforms.

But it’s not just ratings and viewership that plague these major award shows. Myriad diversity and inclusion controversies continue to arise, calling into question the validity and outsize importance of such honors in the first place.

The Recording Academy, the body which hosts and awards the Grammys, is still sorting through an interim leadership crisis after allegations of vote-rigging and sexual misconduct toppled the previous regime. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which awards the Golden Globes, was revealed in a recent Los Angeles Times investigation to have no Black members in its cohort; it was also reported that the HFPA accepted lavish gifts from studios in return for further nomination consideration.

Even institutional reforms don’t necessarily lead to tidy answers. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s changed the makeup of its voting body following efforts including the 2015 #OscarsSoWhite campaign, but the major Oscar categories for acting, directing and writing continue to underrepresent different ethnic, gender and racial identities.

Monday’s Academy Award nominations were reflective of some of those issues, which are likely on the mind of those at ABC, who will broadcast the ceremony live from two separate venues on April 25. The poor ratings performance of recent live events is surely an unwelcome omen for the network, as the Oscars are typically the highest-rated of the major award shows. But even before the pandemic provided ratings cover, the February 2020 ceremony lost 6 million viewers from 2019.