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Yesterday the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced some changes to future awards telecasts that included, among other things, a new category dedicated to popular movies. A new report reveals that a big part of the push for these changes actually came from the Disney owned ABC network. However, while you might think the motivation here was seeing Disney's popular films get recognized, it appears the real reason, at least outwardly, is that ABC wanted to see these changes made was to improve the ratings of the Oscars telecast.
This year's Oscars had two really big problems. It was really long and nobody watched. 19% fewer people watched this year's show than watched last year's. This led to a "come to Jesus" meeting between ABC and the Oscars after the ceremony where ABC broke down the ratings and the various points that people stopped watching the show, in order to show the Academy where they could cut down to a more manageable size.
ABC was also, apparently responsible for the concept of a "Best Blockbuster" category, suggesting it as a way to help attract more viewers in the first place since quite often the Oscar-nominated films aren't major box office draws, and therefore aren't television ratings draws either. Few people tune in to the show to see how their favorite period drama fares at the show.
The final big change announced, the earlier broadcast date was also an ABC suggestion, believing that many viewers have "awards show fatigue" by late February, so people would be more likely to tune in to an earlier broadcast. Beginning in 2020 the show will be in early February.
Of course, while these changes may be mostly due to TV ratings issues, there's a good chance that ABC's parent company, The Walt Disney Company, will benefit, as they are responsible for many of the popular blockbuster movies that could receive nominations in this new category. Disney releases enough major tentpole features within its various divisions to take every nomination some years, though one hopes that category rules will prevent that from happening.
The shorter telecast and earlier air date are moves that clearly make a lot of sense and few people will be too upset by them. However, the "popular movie award" has been met with a considerable amount of pushback. It certainly feels like a way for Academy voters to make some fans happy, and get them to watch the show, while making sure those blockbusters don't sully the "important" categories.
It seems ABC isn't too worried about the blowback, as Variety states the network feels that Oscar changes often result in complaints before people eventually get used to the changes and accept them.
Exactly how this new category will work is anybody's guess, and it really sounds like even the Academy doesn't quite know yet.