2023 Billboard Music Awards’ new digital-only format is a disastrous #FAIL: ‘Whoever’s in charge… is getting fired’

There was a great deal of hype surrounding the long-running Billboard Music Awards’ bold shift this year from a traditional network television event to an experimental digital format — which was billed as a “reimagined award show concept” that would “entertain fans with music and exclusive content” from several unique locations worldwide.

But when the 2023 BBMAs actually took place Sunday via Billboard’s website and social media handles, fans who’d excitedly logged on to watch performances by K-pop groups NewJeans and Stray Kids, Colombian superstar Karol G, and Christmas queen Mariah Carey were dismayed that the host-free “ceremony” was not a full-scale awards show production, or even an actual live-stream.

ok so to clear up confusion there is no award livestream. all the bbmas streams you see on youtube are restreaming last years and are bots. go to https://t.co/uSuyRhwznj and wait for the time of the performances you want to watch to see the performance uploaded on the website. pic.twitter.com/b39hHQtJWt

— mina 樂✰ (@skzview) November 20, 2023

Instead, every 20 to 30 minutes, the BBMAs.watch site uploaded a pre-taped performance (Carey was in fact playing a holiday concert at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday); during the between-performance downtime, the site ran artists’ pre-recorded acceptance speeches, most of which looked like they had been shot on Zoom or iPhones. But the same queued-up speech clips kept playing over and over in a loop, and to make matter worse, all of these videos were frequently interrupted — literally mid-song or mid-speech — by jarring 10-second ads for Lexus and Capital One.

Fans took to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, to vent about the “REALLY embarrassing” and “odd and frustrating format,” or about how the buggy Billboard site repeatedly crashed, stalled, or failed to load at all.

CAN YOU GUYS FIX THE FREAKING LINK?? everyone is replying saying we can’t watch because the link is broken and you guys are just ignoring and tweeting show updates as if anyone can actually see what’s going on.

— -ˏˋ amity ⁷₄ ˊˎ- (@needyynasa) November 20, 2023

Wait, so apparently, the new award show format is just clicking on all these award videos? I definitely prefer a live stream. I’m not gonna click on videos I’m not interested in but I’ll sit thru and entire live stream. @billboard #BBMAs #BBMAs2023

— Kit Stark (@KitTales95) November 20, 2023

“This year’s BBMAs format is weird as hell. There’s no actual award show, they just posting the winners and performances,” tweeted one angry fan. “This has got to be the dumbest excuse for an awards show format. Just say you don’t have the money for a real show and cancel it. Your links even go to sites Microsoft AV blocks for phishing lol,” another posted while trying to watch Top Electronic/Dance Song winners Bebe Rexha and David Guetta’s performance. “Do not EVER use this format again. It’s an absolute mess, unless your intention is for no one to actually see the show #FAIL,” tweeted another.

Other outraged, or just plain confused, fan reactions can be read below.

the #BBMAs is tragic…who made the decision to go with this format? 🤣 why did any artist even agree with this? either funding was lost or some nepo baby pushed this decision 🍅🍅🍅🍅👎👎👎👎

maybe the #MAMAAWARDS @MnetMAMA can take over the TV slot next year

— GANG MAN SHI BA SUI ☺️👂 TABBER’S WIFE 💛 (@Luxlovedef) November 20, 2023

This format for the #BBMAs is terrible. It really takes away from the performances and the winners. I hope no other show does this… ever.

— Danielle (@aDoseOfReality8) November 20, 2023

y’all suck bbmas. this format sucks. should’ve stick to tv

— the red sleeve enthusiast ◡̈ 𖧷 🇲🇽 (@leeleesandeok) November 20, 2023

the BBMAs should award themselves the worst awards show format cos wtf is this

— ai |🍉 (@panaginippan) November 20, 2023

Agreed. I’m fine with prerecording if it’s necessary.. especially for performers around the world. But they should have at least put it all together into a “show” format and let everyone stream and watch it. These 20 second videos are NOT it.

— Jodi Brantley🍥 (She/Her) (@Jodi_photog) November 20, 2023

over the years certain award shows have just tanked, i understand bbmas are doing a new format but it’s actually terrible. It’s not even a livestream, just posting the performances and the winners thank you speech. It’s just not exciting

— kenzie 💫 (@kenzstars) November 20, 2023

As for the actual sporadic performances, Karol G, who won Top Latin Female Artist and Top Latin Touring Artist, opened the show (or, basically, was the first performer to have her clip uploaded), doing a watery medley of “QLONA,” “Ojos Ferrari,” and “Labios Mordidos.” Rexha and Guetta did orchestral versions of “I’m Good (Blue)” and “One in a Million”; Tate McRae performed “Greedy” from the Moxy Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles; Top Latin Song winner Peso Pluma did a boxing-themed “Rubicon” number featuring a Mike Tyson cameo; Carey belted an Aspen-inspired rendition of “All I Want For Christmas Is You” accompanied by ice-skaters; 11-time 2023 BBMAs winner Morgan Wallen sang “98 Braves” for an audience of former ‘98 Braves MLB players on their home field in Atlanta; and Top Global K-Pop Artist winners NewJeans and Top K-Pop Album winners Stray Kids dazzled with their choreography.

These clips were all slick and well-produced, but they lacked the visceral excitement of a truly live awards-show presentation, and were strangely reminiscent of the sort of the locked-down, closed-set pandemic performances that awards ceremonies had to resort to in 2020 and 2021.

Along with Wallen’s 11 trophies, Taylor Swift was night’s other big winner, earning 10 awards and accepting the year’s biggest honor, Top Artist, in — of course — a pre-taped clip. A full list of 2023 BBMAs winners can be found here, while frustrated fans who experienced technical difficulties when trying to load Billboard’s website will probably have better luck watching all of Sunday’s acceptance speeches, and some of the performances, on Billboard’s YouTube channel.

As for next year, hopefully the Billboard powers-that-be will realize that this was an experiment gone wrong, and the 2024 awards will return to a more traditional format… or at least Billboard’s webmaster will have ironed out the kinks on the awards’ website by then.

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