Amazon’s ACM Awards Forget Rural Fans Resulting in Tech Issues

The 2022 Academy of Country Music Awards transpired on Monday, March 7th, and there was a lot of interest in the awards well beyond the country music realm for one specific reason: this was the first legacy awards show in any industry that had spent over half a century on network television trying to make the jump to exclusively streaming online.

This seemed like a smart, forward-thinking approach to the embattled American awards show that has seen rapidly declining ratings, lack of attention from younger demographics, and difficulties with the appointment television model, especially when you have to broadcast in different time zones, or even to different countries. So what better way to solve these problems than to stream it online, and make it accessible to everyone, on any device, and in real time no matter the market.

For many people, the experiment appeared to be successful, though the ACMs were not exactly the “easily accessible to everyone” online model they were sold as initially. To watch the ACMs, you either needed an Amazon Prime subscription, or you had to pay. Basically, it was a big Amazon Prime membership drive. Many did sign up for Amazon Prime to be able to access the program. But unfortunately, for many people in rural areas, they didn’t get what they paid for.

There was a pretty catastrophic oversight by both the ACM Awards and Amazon in their streaming awards show experiment, and one that alienated the most key demographic for a presentation such as the ACM Awards: country fans who actually live in the country. And no, it wasn’t that these fans were furious with the amount of contemporary pop in the presentation—though that might have been an issue for some as well. It’s that out in rural areas where broadband internet is either unavailable or inconsistent, fans either couldn’t access the stream, or got such a terribly inconsistent feed, it rendered the presentation unwatchable.

As the 2022 ACM Awards transpired and shortly after, social media and Amazon’s own review forum filled up with irate viewers unable to access the awards due to connectivity issues. In fact, Amazon’s own reviews are dominated by disgruntled customers.

Loved the show but out in rural America we have limited to no bandwidth so the true country people who watch ACM awards every year probably weren’t able to see it. It’s sad that it was streamed but not broadcasted. We have AT&T and the buffering kept us from watching quite a bit of the show. Please please please next year broadcast this! –Megan Malin

Why is this not on a major network on TV?? I have Amazon Prime and it will not work. Totally disappointed in the Academy of Country Music for not having this on a major network station. This really sucks!!! You have lost a lot of viewers doing it this way. –Terry A.

It is so pixelated you cannot see the artists! Sound is bad, too. Rather watch on network tv. —
Zachary H.

Spending more time restarting than watching…..gave up! —
Tim Freet

Won’t load. Don’t try this again. –
-Mike C.

Horrible streaming service. Keeps freezing up, sound cuts out, and sound and picture not matching up. I’ve restarted several times and tried watching on a few minute delay. After working for about 2-3 minutes it craps out. Absolute horrible! I would never recommend watching any live streaming on Prime. Complete garbage! –
J. Esposito

Poor streaming and reception! Couldn’t even hear one full song. 🙁 —
Brownyn K. Meyer

This is horrible! We always watch the ACMs but not this year because it keeps buffering & can’t see clearly because very blurry! So disappointed! Wish I could select 0 stars! —
Scott Gohlke

Too pixelated. Leave the award show live streams to the seasoned big dogs. Will NOT watch a live event on Prime again. As if they care.. –Kristin D.

First my country radio station and now the awards shows???? Very disappointed that I had to watch on Amazon prime this year. I’m a loyal country fan my entire life and I look forward to the award shows. This year was the worst ceremony I have watched. The quality on Amazon prime video was pixel aged and low audio. The show is always on network TV. Do better!!!! –Danielle C.

Though many of the problems experienced were with people who do not have consistent broadband internet, some in more urban areas with more consistent internet access seemed to also have issues. 42% of the reviews on Amazon for the 2022 ACM Awards are 1 star, and the majority are negative, with the vast majority of those reviews complaining specifically about the quality of the stream. At the least, Amazon should have warned viewers that a certain level of broadband service was required to experience the show.

Amazon and the ACMs just didn’t account for people who didn’t have high speed internet connections. Even many viewers who regularly use streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu without issue had issues with the Amazon stream. This could be the result not of Amazon’s stream being so low quality, but being too high of quality, taxing local ISPs and the bandwidth of connections. In other words, trying to deliver a high quality 4K streaming experience meant many end users got pixelated video that regularly froze up, and terrible audio quality.

Another complaint by many viewers was the impossibility of being able to rewind, fast forward, or record the presentation, which many viewers can do through the traditional television medium. The awards were also not available on replay initially, only the red carpet presentation was.

Though to many living in cities, online streaming is much more convenient, to many rural dwellers, over-the-air digital television, satellite, and sometimes Cable is the better option. This is the reason the Grand Ole Opry’s recently-launched Circle Network chose launch on local television channels as opposed to online to reach those rural consumers.

Though the ACM Awards on Amazon were sold as a technological advance, for many country music fans—especially ones who actually live in the country—it was a giant leap backwards, while national reviews written by people in big cities were unaware of the issues facing rural fans, and decreed the move online as a success due to the lack of commercials and the speed of the presentation.

Perhaps this is an issue that will be solved over time. But in 2022, and with the first awards show of its kind to move to streaming, gross miscalculations resulted in the disenfranchisement of many of country music’s fans who so commonly get overlooked by the greater American culture.

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