And the Oscar goes to…
My predictions for the 2011 Academy Awards: Ratings will increase at least 10%, driven by an increase in young viewers (P18-49).
And here’s why that will happen:
1. Ten Best Picture Nominees: The Academy upped the number of nominees for Best Picture from 5 to 10 in 2010, and continued the trend for the 2011 show. Why do I think this is important? Relatability. Here’s one of my simple ideas: I think the majority of the population wants to know what’s going on- if they haven’t seen (or even heard of) the films nominated, they aren’t going to be all that interested in watching. People want to root for their favorites– to say ‘I loved that movie, too!’ By expanding the best picture nominees from 5 to 10 films, there’s room for the ‘blockbusters’ the average Joe has seen that may have been previously excluded from consideration.
And this year there are plenty of ‘blockbusters’ for the everyman to root for during the Awards show- which hasn’t been the case in past years. Let’s take a look: This year, 5 of the 10 the nominees (and coincidentally as well in 2010) grossed/have grossed as of late February over $100M in box office sales, whereas in 2009, only 2 of the 5 nominees grossed over $100M and in 2008, only 1 of the 5 nominees reached the $100M mark. That’s not to say that a less ‘successful’ nominee (by box office standards) can’t win- last year’s Best Picture winner, the Hurt Locker, only grossed $17M in theaters. But rounding out the nominees in 2010 were films like Avatar (grossing roughly $750M), The Blind Side (~$256M), and Up! (~$293.) You’d be hard pressed to find any average Joe who didn’t know/see at least one of the films- and the box office numbers prove it.
This year’s nominees haven’t grossed quite as much as Avatar, but big names like The Social Network, Toy Story 3, and Black Swan are all on the list for Best Picture… as are less ‘blockbuster’ films: 127 Hours ($18M), The Kids Are All Right ($21M), and Winter’s Bone ($6M).
Everyone has something to root for! Relatability.
My prediction: Natalie Portman continues her ‘Best Actress’ Awards show streak and wins again for Black Swan; The King’s Speech or The Social Network win for Best Picture.
2. Fresh New Hosts- Anne Hathaway and James Franco are hosting the Oscars for the first time- she’s only 28, he’s 32. Last year’s hosts? Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, average age between the two: 58.5. The hosting average age just dropped by 28.5 years! Now I love Steve Martin (Alec Baldwin… meh), and I know older generations love him from his SNL days, but I think the younger generation most readily sees him as a white haired gentleman who was a wonderful dad in the Father of the Bride films or Cheaper by the Dozen franchise. And the key word here?: Dad. I think going with younger hosts is a good idea- if you’re trying to speak to the younger generation, speak to them in their language. Hathaway and Franco fit the bill for the younger generation-both were in recent movies, graced magazine covers, and made headlines this year- but are also among the smartest and most poised of their generation of actors. Hiring these two was a smart choice by the Academy- hiring someone like Robert Pattinson, Miley Cyrus, or Justin Bieber may have attracted younger viewers, but most certainly would have turned off older vieweres. I think Hathaway and Franco have both the youth and poise to appeal to a broader demographic and bring a little refined fun to the show.
And please, don’t even tell me you didn’t like Hathaway’s opening with Hugh Jackman for the 2009 Academy Awards:
Other hosting choices I would have enjoyed watching: Conan. He’s had a pretty big year this year and could draw on his massive, engaged fan base to draw attention to the Awards show. Plus, he’s hilarious. Tina Fey. A bit older, but in my opinion, the funniest lady on TV/in movies these days.
3. The ‘You’re Invited Campaign’ and a big push for Interactive, Muliplatform viewing– On the Oscar.com website: “You’re invited to the 83rd Academy Awards and this invitation is like no other. Celebrate Hollywood’s biggest night with unprecedented access that even the winners won’t have. With exclusive backstage cameras, you’ll go where few have ever been and walk and mingle among the stars.” And how will viewers get this access? On the Web through multiple outlets (Oscar.com, People, E!…) and on their iPads, iPhones, and iPods. Viewers can manipulate camera angles on the red carpet, follow actors backstage after winning their Award, and for a nominal fee, can go into dressing rooms and inside the Governor’s Ball. Ah, cue the fascination with Hollywood and wanting to find out ‘what really goes on’ behind the scenes.
And don’t forget about social media– fans can check in/vote/share their with their friends through Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace. Oscar.com will also run a live feed of nominees’ tweets. We’ve seen how the use of social media can boost ratings- especially with live events. Take the 2010 VMAs for example- “During the show, 2.3 million tweets came in and 11.4 million viewers tuned in, almost double the 2006 low and up 27% from 2009. In fact, it was the VMA’s best showing since 2002″ (fastcompany) And Stuart Elliott of the NYTimes writes, “The ability of viewers to discuss with one another in real time what they see taking place on the field or the red carpet is being credited with increasing the audiences for several live programs, among them Super Bowl XLV on Feb. 6, which was the most-watched TV show ever; the Grammy Awards on Feb. 13, with the best ratings since 2000; and the N.B.A. All-Star Game last Sunday, which drew the highest ratings since 2003.” (NYTimes)
And I know it’s an assumption, but if the majority of live shows this year have seen an increase in ratings- and attribute them to social media- then why will the Oscars be different? Especially since they’re making a mammoth push for viewer interaction and inclusion.
The Academy’s invitation and inclusion of viewers on multiple platforms= smart move. Viewers want the inside scoop on Hollywood– take the popularity of magazines like People and US Weekly for example- and the Academy is not only giving viewers the inside scoop, they are giving them the scoop in real time- and interacting with viewers.
So there you have it: my predictions for the 2011 Oscars… a ratings win for young viewers. Relatability and inclusion are the key for why I think ratings will increase at least 10%: more blockbuster films on the docket, fresh young hosts, and a focus on interactivity and multiplatform engagement all equal relatability and inclusion of key young viewers.
Leave your predictions and I’ll recap how we all did next week!
**All box office data from Boxofficemojo.com
**For perspective: I consider myself an average Joe.