NEW YORK >> To combat slumping ratings, the Academy Awards are undergoing a radical slimming down, with eight awards to be presented off-air during next month’s telecast.
In a letter sent Tuesday to members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, the group’s president, David Rubin, said that the awards for film editing, production design, sound, makeup and hairstyling, music (original score) and the three short film awards for documentary, live-action and animated short will be presented at the ceremony before the live broadcast begins on ABC.
Now, instead of starting the ceremony and broadcast all at once, the Dolby Theatre ceremony will begin an hour before the telecast does. The presentation and speeches of those early, eight winners will be edited and featured during the three-hour live broadcast, which Rubin emphasized would still provide each winner their “Oscar moment.”
Rubin said the change was necessary for the future health of the Academy Awards.
“When deciding how to produce the Oscars, we recognize it’s a live event television show and we must prioritize the television audience to increase viewer engagement and keep the show vital, kinetic, and relevant,” wrote Rubin. “This has been an important focus of discussion for quite some time. We do this while also remembering the importance of having our nominees relish a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The possibility of pulling some of the Oscars’ 23 categories from the broadcast has long been a matter of debate. In 2019, the academy initially sought to air four categories — cinematography, editing, makeup and hairstyling and live-action short — in a shortened, taped segment. But after a backlash ensued, the academy reversed itself nine days before the show.
But ratings have continued to fall. Last year’s broadcast, severely altered by COVID-19 protocols, plummeted to an all-time low of 9.85 million viewers. Pressure has mounted not only with the Oscars’ longtime broadcast partner, ABC, but within the academy. This year, after several host-less Oscars, producers are turning to the trio of Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes to emcee.