On Oscar night, bigger is better. The stars are dressed to kill, and the coverage rivals the Super Bowl. From ABC's preshow special to E! Entertainment's round-the-clock broadcasts to the syndicated mag shows, Oscar reigns supreme. Who's wearing what? Who came with whom? Who didn't show? The Academy Awards is an entertainment-news junkies' paradise.
With a catch: This year's event will be more reminiscent of past galas. War in Iraq called for restraint in 2003, and the Academy and ABC nixed the red-carpet spectacle. But this year, the show must go on.
For E!, Oscar coverage brings in some of the network's highest ratings all year. On average, 10 million viewers tune in at some point. "The core of our category is the red carpet and inside the Hollywood experience," says E! Networks CEO Mindy Herman. "We spend the entire year working on packages, arranging interviews, culminating in this event."
This year, E! will put celebrities in brighter focus, running its two-hour live red-carpet special with Joan and Melissa Rivers in high-definition. (On-demand service InHD will carry the HD feed; E! will transmit in standard-definition.) E!'s coverage is a day-long affair, with 10 live hours, including a two-hour postevent show with winners and the parties.
For the first time, E! is sending the Oscars to sister network Style, which will debut its own red-carpet program, a live fashion-centric show. This way, says Herman, the Rivers can focus "on the celebrity and comedic space," and Style's show, hosted by Finola Hughes, can trade in "fashion, looks, and designers."
The syndicated magazines will be out in force, working the event for their programs that air Monday, March 1. "This is our biggest show of the year," says ET
executive producer Linda Bell Blue. "We have more cameras, more crews than any other night."
This year, TV producers had to play beat the clock, since the Oscars were moved to February. There has already been an array of awards shows—the Golden Globes, the Grammy Awards and the SAG Awards—all leading to Hollywood's A-list night.
"It almost feels like the NCAA basketball tournament," says Silverstein. "Each week, you are building up to something bigger."