The Academy Awards have been a crap shoot when it comes to TV ratings in recent years. The annual ceremony has tried numerous new ideas, mostly around trying numerous different hosts in the last few years, in order to get more public interest. It appears that ABC isn't too worried about the future of the Oscars, they just signed a deal to televise the show for the next decade and then some.
ABC already had a deal with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to broadcast the Academy Awards until 2020, the new deal, announced Wednesday, extends the current deal for another eight years, until 2028. The date was likely not picked at random. 2028 will mark the 100th anniversary of the awards, meaning ABC has locked in a future telecast that will likely see strong ratings, regardless of what the film landscape looks like then. We can already expect that the show will be a big deal, and people will likely want to see what they do to celebrate.
Last year's telecast of the Oscars was a controversial one, following the announcement of the acting nominees, where every single one was white. The monochrome aspect of the nominees became a major part of Chris Rock's hosting gig. While controversy and TV ratings often go hand in hand, it didn't happen this year, according to Entertainment Weekly, ratings were at an eight-year low.
The Academy has instituted new rules regarding Academy membership and voting privileges which are expected to help diversify the organization. ABC is likely hoping that these changes will also help increase interest in the awards themselves. A more diverse set of nominees, may in turn, lead to a more diverse, and larger, viewing audience.
It's honestly more than a little surprising to see ABC sign this extension following an awards show that was far from what the network would have wanted. While the Oscar's are the awards for the movie industry, which is a prestigious show to air, prestige doesn't pay the bills. If nobody watches the show, then ABC can't get the advertising rates they need to make the show profitable for them. With four years left on the current contract, there was plenty of time for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to try and turn things around, they likely could have demanded a better deal for an extension following a show with higher ratings.
Whatever the reason, ABC now owns the Oscars for the next decade or so. The bigger question for ABC may be, will anybody even be watching the network by 2028? With the speed with which viewing habits and technology change, it's possible that we could all be watching our content via internet enabled eye implants. I really don't want to have to deal with commercials on my eye implant.