Just when the Oscar telecast embraced more diversity than ever before and held the promise of real drama — for the first time, artists of color had the chance to sweep every acting category and best director — the ratings cratered, setting a record low. The show was watched by 10.4 million people, less than half the number who tuned in last year.
Of course, the pandemic was partly to blame. Ratings for all the big TV awards shows declined in the last 12 months. And movie theaters were mostly closed for a year, delaying openings of some films, including a number of expected blockbusters, and funneling the rest to streaming services. But the ratings for the Oscars have been on a downward slide for more than two decades. The problem is that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences wants the telecast to be too many things: a showcase of film artistry, a huge moneymaker and great TV. Here are some ideas:
Scotch the no-host edict and get a big personality to emcee again. If the show is going to be good TV, it needs a host to guide it — and make some fun of it along the way. It's a challenging, thankless task, so pay the host whatever he or she wants. The academy can afford it.
Make the show more diverse so that more of the moviegoing public feels represented — and let people know you're doing it. The Oscars often is dominated by films that the industry loves but few people have seen, so the academy has to find more ways to connect with the public. This year's show actually did a better job on the diversity front, with more people of color nominated and presenting awards. But the shift wasn't well promoted.
Consider streaming the awards show after the deal with ABC is up and create the academy's own platform for it or use a free streaming site. Present the show commercial-free, which would cut the running time, and promote it robustly. The networks are hemorrhaging viewers. The academy should cut the commercials and go looking for the erstwhile viewers who are never coming back to network TV, no matter how much the academy changes its show.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE LOS ANGELES TIMES