ABC Boosts Oscar Digital

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With the Oscars less than a month away, ABC is supersizing its coverage on digital platforms, bolstering its online presence with more video than ever and offering exclusive awards-related content on cellphones.

Although the Academy Awards show is one of the few TV events that can still draw a big crowd—last year's averaged about 38.8 million viewers, and TV spots sold for $1.7 million—ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences are heeding the call to place spots on digital media.

The network, which will air the 79th Annual Academy Awards and an hour-long pre-show Feb. 25, has substantially grown the awards' official Website, Oscar.com, with more video. New features include a weekly video diary from awards host Ellen DeGeneres, a weekly and daily online pre-show, a "Thank You Cam," with winners' first backstage comments and fashion coverage.

The site has already drawn blue-chip sponsors, including AT&T, Procter & Gamble's Olay, and Kodak. GM Corp. will sponsor one of several interactive games and promotions, according to industry sources. The GM-backed game, "Find the 79s," will award prizes for finding hidden "79s" placed throughout the telecast and submitting a list online. "Predict the Winners" offers online ballots for viewers to select their picks.

ABC has aired the Oscars for many years and in 2005 renewed a deal with the Academy to air the show through 2014. As part of the package, Disney-ABC TV Group's digital-media team builds the Oscar.com site and mobile content.

For the first time ever, the Academy will also offer free mobile content to Oscar devotees. Cellphone users will be able to access lists of nominees and winners, red-carpet photos, and pictures of Oscar shows from years past. ABC is also offering a mobile-only Oscars blog on the night of the show. Viewers can access mobile content through an Oscar WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) site or through text message.

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