Ankler Preview: Who Killed Oscar?

It’s a shame to have to ask this after a night where you had such a feel-good compelling outcome, from such a really solid field of contenders. But the ratings have spoken and a 20% drop is a 20% drop. I mean, there’s not a lot of 20 percents to spare at this point.

If you’ve gone in six years from 40 million to 23 million, the trajectory is pretty clear, and if there was an offramp that could’ve been taken, we’ve probably missed it by this point. If you’re at 23 million now—with demographic numbers that make Huell Howser’s rerun audience look like Billie Eilish—you’ll be at 15 million soon enough, to be shortly followed by a lurch below 10.

I recall when American Idol’s audience plunged at almost this exact trajectory, on almost exactly the same timeline and they were caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of not wanting to offend the very touchy oldsters in the audience and, as they melted away, desperately needing to appeal to some folks not in convalescence. The attempts to appease both sides, as they always will, annoyed everyone, and the death cycle only increased, until years later the show settle in with its much reduced but mostly stable audience.

So who or what killed the Oscars as the centerpiece of the world’s cultural conversation, the one non-sports, must-watch across the demographics? The suspects are familiar, but let’s just roll through them super quick:

• Too too too long. This is not the length that people watch things for. To sit and listen to speeches by non-sexy people they never heard of for three plus hours? It’s been said a million times, but what are we thinking? It was great once, but for a mega-audience, you just can’t do that anymore.
• The movies, even the successful ones, are not the center of most people’s lives.
• The 200th time the audience at home was insulted and lectured to by a bunch of disgustingly rich gadabouts was probably one slap in the face more than they wanted.
• The race itself—gaudy, bloated, analyzed to death—has become a tedious dirge to anyone not being paid to enjoy it.
• The woke parade’s constant nods to a few thousand people on Twitter is, shall we say, not where most of your tens of millions of would-be viewers live.
• Not having a host may not make much of a difference on the night of, but having no pitch person in the run-up to the event doesn’t help.
• Moving the ceremony but still falling as the eighth film awards show and the third major televised awards ceremony within a month. That’s special?

At the bottom, it remains one of the great mysteries of the universe why the largest community of entertainers ever assembled, with all those talents and minds available to it, can’t put on an entertaining show once a year.

This has been a preview of today’s edition of The Ankler, the industry’s secret newsletter. To read the rest of our Oscar finger-pointing and all today’s items, subscribe today for just $10 a month.

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