Under Portnow, the Recording Academy inked a 10-year, several hundred million dollar broadcast deal with CBS to keep the Grammys on the network through 2026. He also expanded the Grammys’ television footprint with Grammy salutes to the Bee Gees, Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, and, earlier this year, Elton John.
However, this year’s ratings tumbled for the show, dropping 24 percent, according to Nielsen Media, averaging 19.8 million overall viewers and drawing a 5.9 rating among adults 18-49, a new low. The Grammys also came under fire for the lack of female winners on the show, with only one woman accepting a trophy during the 3.5 hour televised broadcast. Despite the fact that the number of female and male performers on the show broke down almost evenly, the lack of female winners on stage and Portnow’s later suggestion that females might need to “step up,” tainted the show.
“It’s not fair to paint the Grammys with an anti-female balance,” Ehrlich said, “but it might be fair to say the Grammys have been reflective, but not reflective enough, of popular taste.”
Ehrlich spoke with Portnow Thursday morning after he learned the news. “He was sanguine,” Ehrlich said. “He was sad, but he was pragmatic and sincerely said his concern is for the future of the Academy and the legacy he’s created.”
On that account, the ledger tips in favor of Portnow, who took over the Recording Academy after another tumultuous time following the departure of former head Michael Greene.
“I don’t think there’s any question that Neil led the Academy out of [that turmoil] to a stable, growing, more credible [organization] and strengthened what the Grammys stand for,” Ehrlich said.
Ehrlich’s contract to produce the Grammys is up in 2020. As far as his future, he said, “I think I will continue to do the show for the next two years and then we’ll see what happens.”