Hollywood stars will gather for the 91st annual Academy Awards on Sunday after several years of ratings declines that one report said are making advertisers nervous.
Last year, the Oscars grabbed a record-low 26.5 million viewers, down from nearly 33 million in 2017, according to Time. That was a long way down from 1998, when “Titanic” was the top movie and the awards show hit its rating peak with 57 million people tuning in, as Forbes noted.
During the lead-up to the 2019 ceremony Sunday, things have gotten so bad that the show is on the edge, Deadline reported, in a piece that relied upon unnamed sources.
“The Oscars are still a very big deal, but people aren’t stupid, and year after year of declining ratings are getting us to a danger zone,” Deadline quoted what it called an “insider” as saying.
“We are right on the edge of that danger zone — not close, but on it — and that makes advertisers very nervous,” the same source added. The outlet said the greatest show of nerves is among the Oscars’ long-term advertisers, who were guaranteed ratings thresholds.
“It’s very unlikely that things will fall so radically this year that they’ll drop beneath those thresholds, but the fact is that there finally had to be such guarantees was a wake-up call to everyone,” Deadline quoted what it said was “another exec” as saying.
ABC denied that it had to patch up the leaky ratings with guarantees.
“The Oscars is one of the most highly sought-out live events in the industry. Historically, we have never guaranteed Oscars, and this year is no different,” Doug Hochstadt, senior vice president of revenue and yield management for Disney Advertising Sales, said in a statement to Deadline.
Jeff Greenfield, co-founder and chief operating officer at the ad tracker C3 Metrics, told Deadline that despite a focus on declining ratings, “People are still going to tune in, whether it’s on TV or on their phones.”
The show has had a rocky few months. In December, Kevin Hart, who was scheduled to host the Oscars, was forced to step aside amid controversy over alleged homophobic tweets.
As such, there will be no host for Sunday’s show.
Previously, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had proposed adding a “popular film” category, but that was later scrapped, as Variety noted.
At one point, a plan evolved to shunt some categories into times when the show would cut to a commercial in order to reduce the length of the telecast. That plan was met with protests and later abandoned.
Others have lambasted the Oscars for a too-heavy dose of liberal politics with the statuettes. For example, as reported by The Western Journal, last year’s show included hosts wearing lapel pins in support of gun control.
Sad. How can Hollywood stop itself from alienating its audience? https://t.co/xEARoIDjru
— James Woods (@RealJamesWoods) March 5, 2018
The American people are no longer interested in Hollywood pontificating about their liberal politics, as evidenced by the 16% drop in Oscar ratings – WOW! https://t.co/kzxssjEY4V
— Bill Mitchell (@mitchellvii) March 6, 2018
With some of these things as the backdrop to Sunday’s show, entertainment critic Mark Dawidziak, writing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, said the glitter of the Oscars has been tarnished.
“The Academy Awards ceremony is in a world of hurt, at least as far as ratings go. Little Oscar’s once-golden reputation as a heavyweight television event has been badly tarnished over the last five years, which have seen a steady and alarming defection among viewers,” he wrote in a piece published Saturday.
Although there are some hopes that the box office success of “Black Panther,” which was nominated for the best picture award, will attract viewers, Dawidziak is not optimistic.
“If viewership goes down again, however, then ‘Titanic’ will be more than just a fond memory of past ratings glory. It will become a metaphor for what has happened to a gradually sinking Oscar telecast over the last five years,” he wrote.
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