All Oscar, All the TimeThroughout its empire, Disney cross-promotes event 2/15/2004 07:00:00 PM Eastern
On-Screen With Oscar
ABC is taking aggressive marketing to a whole new level. Marrying Disney's corporate muscle to the net's reach, publicity for the 76th Academy Awards will span theme parks to soap operas.
|Rating the Show|
|How ABC's Academy Awards telecasts have fared|
|TELECAST||TOTAL VIEWERS (000)||18-49 RTNG/SHR|
|March 24, 1997||40,075||16.5/44|
|March 23, 1998||55,249||24.2/57|
|March 21, 1999||45,615||18.8/45|
|March 26, 2000||46,333||19.1/47|
|March 25, 2001||42,944||17.8/40|
|March 24, 2002||41,782||16.1/39|
|March 23, 2003||33,043||12.5/30|
"Most of our comedies are tying into the Academy Awards with plotlines or stunt casting that involves a former Oscar winner or someone associated with the Oscars," says Judith Tukich, who carries the unusual title "director of synergy and special projects" at ABC.
The network values its in-house promotional effort at a whopping $40 million—astronomical by any account.
The telecast, typically the second-highest-rated show of the year behind the Super Bowl, airs Sunday Feb. 29 at 8 p.m. ET, the first time it's being shown during the February sweeps. (The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences nixed the show's broadcast in March, and ABC didn't object.)
"Obviously, this is a big event for us," says Tukich. "We want to make sure the numbers stay as high as we can keep them. Anybody that has a TV set or a radio will not be able to go anywhere the week of Feb. 23 and not know that the Oscars are on."
ABC's interest in the big synergy plan this year is a numbers gamble. A typical Oscar-cast gets 40 million to 45 million viewers, but last year's attracted "only" 33 million, because of the war in Iraq. In 1998, Oscar had its biggest audience in history: 55 million viewers. That was the year James Cameron's Titanic
won 11 awards, including Best Picture.
This year, ABC hopes such films as The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
will reel in additional viewers. To ensure it, ABC's promotional strategy is all Oscar, all the time
ABC's I'm With Her, a show about a movie star and her schoolteacher boyfriend, is featuring a five-episode Oscar arc this month. Guest stars include Brooke Shields, who is also the wife of the show's executive producer, Chris Henchy; and Joan and Melissa Rivers. The show also filmed an Oscar ceremony at a theater on the Warner Bros.' lot. "You want to help the network. Then you hope they help you in return," Henchy says. "It seemed like a perfect fit."
Opposite the Grammys, ABC aired theatrical movie Pearl Harbor, which won one Oscar in 2001. During the movie, the network provided five "Oscar moments," in which the five studios nominated for Best Picture showcased their movies. ABC gave the studios the time gratis, and Procter & Gamble sponsored each segment.
Daytime dramas One Life to Live, General Hospital, and All My Children
are incorporating Oscar storylines that will run Friday Feb. 27. Chat-fests Good Morning America
and The View
will focus many segments on the Oscars, with GMA
hosting a weeklong celebration before the show.
The Disney-owned cable channels are getting into the act, too. Even ESPN's new morning show, Cold Pizza, discussed the Oscar nominations the day they were announced. A&E, Lifetime, and Disney Channel are all sponsoring Oscar-related events or promotions. Even Disneyland, Disney World, and Disney's California Adventure are on-board. And getting universal participation wasn't a problem, Tukich adds.
The network sold ad time for the upcoming Academy Awards show during last year's upfront; the 50 or so available spots sold out in September, with each 30-second ad costing $1.5 million. That means the Oscar telecast grosses $75 million in ad revenue. (It costs ABC $45 million annually in license fees, but the network also benefits from pre-Oscar shows, particularly Barbara Walters'.)
Whoever grabs the gold, ABC comes out a winner.