Oscars Shake-Up: Academy Unveils Dramatic Changes to Show

Academy Awards (Deposit Photos)

As ratings for the Oscars continue to dwindle, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced plans to overhaul the broadcast.

Academy President John Bailey and CEO Dawn Hudson detailed three key changes to members Wednesday morning, in an email obtained by The Wrap.

Those changes include shortening the broadcast to three hours, adding a new category geared toward more crowd-pleasing films and shifting the date of the broadcast.

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However, Miki Turner, an assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, doesn’t think the revamp goes far enough.

“They should shorten it to two hours and eliminate a lot of the minor and tech categories by featuring those people in a film clip to be shown during the show,” Turner told Urban Hollywood 411.

While some might disagree, few can dispute the fact that something needs to change.

The overhaul comes after the broadcast, which clocked in at three hours and 50 minutes earlier this year, suffered its lowest ratings ever.

The Oscars currently hand out awards in 24 categories, but the average viewer isn’t interested in many of the technical awards.

Turner, who is a longtime Hollywood insider, agrees the show can be tedious.

“Personally, I didn’t even watch. Two days after it aired, I watched Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue and that was it. He, at least, was very entertaining!” she said.

To address complaints about the broadcast, the Academy’s board of governors agreed in a meeting Tuesday night to hand out “select,” yet to be determined awards, during commercial breaks. “The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast,” the email to members stated.

In another bold move, the board announced a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film, which should open the door for fan-favorites such as Black Panther and Mission: Impossible – Fallout to be recognized. Eligibility requirements will be announced later, board members said.

In years past, the Academy has been criticized for being out of touch with mainstream moviegoers by nominating mostly art-house films that tend not to do big business at the box office.

Some industry insiders believe this is a contributing factor to the show’s falling ratings, because few people in middle America have seen the nominated films.

The Academy also announced plans to move up the date for the 92nd Academy Awards in 2020, from the previously announced Feb. 23 to Feb. 9, the earliest the show has ever been held. The date of  the 2019 broadcast will remain unchanged.

Earlier this year, 26.5 million domestic viewers tuned in to the Oscars marking an all-time low, according to Nielsen. It was also a 19 percent decline from the previous year.

As an example of the show’s ratings challenges, 43.7 million viewers watched in 2014. However, viewership has continued to dip every year since then.

Below is the email outlining the changes in its entirety.

Dear Member,

Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.
The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.
Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast
We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.
To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.

2. New award category
We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.

3. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars
The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.
The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.

We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.
John Bailey and Dawn Hudson