The Oscars should be as interesting as Oscars.com
It worked for the Grammys: CBS’ insistence on making the show an interactive experience – from marketing the event to recruiting online participation from fans – helped build the show’s ratings from this year to last.
Some 19.05 million people tuned in to this year’s Grammy’s, even without Chris and Rihanna, compared to 2008’s 17.18 million. (Still, like all awards shows, the Grammys’ long-term ratings are down, according to this incredibly informative chart by tvbythenumbers.com.)
The argument runs that whatever content the show is covering dictates the ratings, although I’m not so sure that’s as true for CBS’ Grammys as it is for ABC’s Oscars, coming up this weekend. The Grammys always has 20+ amazing performances that you will only see on that telecast, while the Oscars mainly has lots of gussied-up celebrities presenting awards. Sorry Oscars – and I am a huge fan – I can only be entertained by what celebrities are wearing for so long. (And that’s a lot longer than the average person, but even I have my limits.)
I, and many others, predict this year’s Oscars will have an even harder time garnering ratings than it has in years past because the nominees are not inspiring. The best picture noms this year are Benjamin Button, Slumdog Millionaire, The Reader, Milk and Frost/Nixon. The combined total audience for all five of these pictures probably equals one episode of American Idol. (This is not a fact, I’m just sayin.’) One Sunday I had nothing to do but clean the house and go see Benjamin Button and I could not tear myself away from the vacuum long enough to see a three-hour movie that everyone I know who saw it described only as “long” and “boring.” So 13 nominations or not, I didn’t see it.
Throw in a seriously slumping ad market and the pull-out of two of the telecast’s biggest advertisers, and ABC has some challenges ahead of it this weekend.
Meanwhile, Disney-ABC is working hard on the interactive part of the show, which has worked so well for the Grammys. Today, Disney-ABC announced that the event’s specially created Web site, Oscar.com, and Sprint are teaming on an “exclusive new application” available at www.sprint.com/digitallounge that will let Sprint subscribers and visitors to Oscar.com make their predictions, answer trivia questions, take part in polls and chat amongst themselves. It seems to me they should also win stuff, but I didn’t see that mentioned anywhere.
There’s lots of other Oscar-related stuff going on at Oscar.com, including the “Road to the Oscars” web series, featuring host Chris Harrison escorting fans on movie-related adventures, like a tour of the Academy of Motion Pictures’ 42-degree vault. It also has a Project Runway-like Web show in which seven up-and-coming fashion designers were vying to have one of their original evening gowns worn during the show this Sunday evening. Online voting for that ended on Tuesday night, and the winner will be revealed in ABC’s pre-Oscar show. That idea reminds of me of CBS’ My Grammy moment, an Idol-like sing-off in which the winner gets to do some once-in-a-lifetime thing like perform with Justin Timberlake.
I applaud all of these efforts by Disney-ABC and Oscar.com. The Oscars need to evolve, and this seems like a good start. Now that we’ve got the Web site handled, what about the actual show? I know the Oscars’ telecast is always way too long but could it take a lesson from the Grammys? Let’s see less celebrities handing out awards and more performances. Maybe that’s why we’ve got Hugh Jackman hosting this year and not Jon Stewart – a little singing and dancing would be a welcome addition to an evening that’s much-hyped but ultimately a little dull.