The Oscars face a watershed moment to grow viewership

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Three actresses will share hosting duties, fans will choose two awards, and some acceptance speeches will be recorded before the live broadcast. It’s part of a plan to shake up the TV broadcast of this year’s Oscars, which faces a crucial test on Sunday in an attempt to rebound from last year’s record ratings.

After being without a host since 2019, the 94th Academy Awards has three: comedians Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. This is the first time that a trio of women will host the ceremony, each bringing their own sense of humor. “We’re already starting with three vaginas,” Hall said in an interview. “I think three women on stage are already prepping (the show), so I think we’re starting off pretty hot.”

The ‘Trainwreck’ star Schumer described her style as ‘mean’ and said she was ready to ‘burn bridges’ in the A-list audience. ‘That’s why we’re all here, just so we can screw us up,” she joked in a video broadcast by ABC. Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Hall and Sykes promised a softer tone to reflect the show’s “Movie Lovers Unite” theme.

“We’re coming in there with love,” Sykes said. “We want everyone to have a good time and we want everyone to feel comfortable.” In its heyday, the Oscars reigned as must-see television and served as glitzy advertisement for Hollywood. Over 55 million US viewers tuned in to the 1998 megahit “Titanic.”

Last year, when the COVID-19 pandemic prompted organizers to move the ceremony to a train station with limited attendance and no musical performances, viewership fell to 10.4 million on ABC, which has the right to televise the show until 2028. And while the size of the audience is shrinking, the age of viewers who watch traditional television, including the Oscars, is increasing, said media consultant Brad Adgate.

“Young viewers aren’t staying home to watch this,” Adgate said. “I think the genre has moved on, like beauty pageants used to be a big event on TV. It slips into that category.” The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes the Oscars, is not alone in this challenge.

With the exception of NFL football games, live TV viewing has declined across the board, with viewers turning to on-demand streaming shows or spending time on TikTok and Twitter. The Emmys and Grammys also posted record viewership numbers during the pandemic. Additionally, ratings data does not capture the entire streaming audience.

At this year’s Oscars, the music will be back with performances from superstars Beyonce, Billie Eilish and more. Organizers also hope to shine a light on some of the year’s biggest movies by announcing the results of two fan polls conducted on Twitter, for Favorite Movie and Best Movie Moment.

Recent nominations have tended to focus on arthouse titles. This year’s most nominated film, ‘The Power of the Dog’, is a Netflix psychological thriller about a cruel rancher in the American West. The producers aim to limit the show to three hours. In some years it extended beyond four.

To help meet this deadline, the winners of eight awards, including sound design and production, will be announced inside the Dolby Theater just before the TV broadcast. Edited recordings of their speeches will be played during the telecast. The change sparked a backlash from Steven Spielberg and others who said it was an affront to the craftsmen who are essential to bringing movies to the screen.

“They’re trying to make the show punchier and shorter,” said Nigel Smith, editor of People magazine. “Hopefully that’s the kind of show we’re going to see, something surprising and new and fresh.” If the ratings drop further, he added, “they’ll just have to go back to the drawing board.”

(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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