ABC extends Oscar telecast agreement

MUMBAI: The most important film awards event The Oscars has received a boost. ABC in the US has extended its contract to carry the event for six more years, through 2014.

The awards are slated to take place on 27 February. In India the show will air live on Star Movies early in the morning on 28 February.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president Frank Pierson said, "By the end of this new extension ABC will have carried 38 consecutive Oscar telecasts, and 56 of the 61 ceremonies ever televised. Oscar lives at ABC."

The previous agreement was scheduled to expire in 2008. International rights are governed by a separate agreement with Buena Vista International which runs till 2010.

Academy executive director Bruce Davis described the Ampas/ABC negotiations as "characteristically cordial". "All of us at the Academy were particularly gratified by the participation of Walt Disney president and COO Bob Iger in these negotiations.

"The Academy is very protective of the Oscars, and one of the main factors that has kept us at ABC is our confidence that Bob understands and respects the things that make us the gold standard of Award Shows. He's been an important constant throughout all our dealings with the network since 1989."

Oscars to be presented from the audience: One grouse that has been taken care this year is that the show use to on and on comfortably exceeding the four hour mark. This does not include the pre show which lasts for another hour. To remedy this situation one measure being taken is that some of this year's winners will receive their prizes from a presenter stationed in the audience in an effort to make sure every nominee is seen on camera.

Producer Gil Cates told the annual luncheon of nominees a couple of days ago that the changes for telecast were a way to reduce the time it takes winners to make their way to the stage and to get more nominees seen by the worldwide television audience.

Some nominees will get their Oscars the traditional way, walking to the stage after their name is announced. In other instances, nominees in a single category will be gathered on stage while the presenter opens the envelope.

Cates has also urged the nominees to keep their acceptance speeches short if they win and focus on saying something meaningful rather than reading a list of names unfamiliar to the viewing audience.

Star Movies' plans in India: In India Star Movies is doing a stunt called Oscar Fever. An Oscar winner and nominee is shown in the night. For this and the telecast it has roped in 10 sponsors including Samsung. Star Movies senior VP content and communication Ajay Vidyasagar said, "The Oscars are key in our product portfolio. We are advertising in print, on-air and in cinema halls.

"Cinema halls display a Star Movies poster with the statue. We have also taken up hoardings. The aim is to remind the viewer that the Oscars are happening on 27 February. I don't think that the viewer has to be educated on what the Oscars are all about. In some cinema halls in Bangalore the owners are doing an Oscar contest for the Best Picture prize. This brings in an interactive element. While viewership may not be great for the live telecast which is early in the morning we do have a primetime repeat which should attract viewers."

As the race is still on the best picture category is witnessing a neck to neck between The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby and Sideways. While Sideways only got five nominations it could benefit should the other two films split the vote.

Advertisers flock in droves to ABC's telecast: Meanwhile a Reuters report states that ABC has sold out commercial time for Hollywood's Oscars awards show, pulling in an average price of $1.6 million for a 30-second spot.

The Oscars are US television's second most-watched event, after football's Super Bowl. Many advertisers are using the venue as a place to launch new marketing campaigns.

Advertisers this year include cosmetics company L'Oreal and online job site, burger chain McDonald's Corp, brewer Anheuser-Busch, Home Depot and MasterCard.

43 million viewers tuned in to ABC's Oscars broadcast last year, when advertising prices averaged $1.5 million per 30-second spot. In fact last years ceremony did well because the blockbuster The Lord Of the Rings was present.

Even in 1998 viewers had tuned in in large numbers because Titanic was sweeping the awards. The trouble this year is that there is no clear front runner.

At the same time it must be said that many people especially the younger demographic 18-35 will want to see what the new host comedian Chris Rock brings to the party.

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