Oscar ratings 'Crash' 8 %

MUMBAI: The 78th annual Academy Awards, which aired live on Star Movies yesterday, threw up a huge surprise when Crash took home the Oscar for Best Picture taking out overwhelming favourite Brokeback Mountain.

What was not such a big surprise though for many in the US was the fact that ratings for broadcaster ABC were down by eight per cent with only 38.8 million people watching the show. Except for 2003 when 33 million viewers tuned in to see Chicago taking the best-picture award -- the Oscars hadn't dipped below 40 million viewers since 1987. Last year 42.1 million viewers tuned in and in 2004 43.5 million viewers tuned in.

The fall in ratings is being ascribed to the kind of films that were vying for top honours. Serious and powerful films were nominated for best picture while the blockbusters like King Kong had to be satisfied competing for the technical awards. On a more positive note The Jon Stewart-hosted Oscars were up five per cent over last year among men 18-34 (9.9 rating vs. 9.4 rating).

The Academy made a consistent effort to have the show run as smooth and as quickly as possible. Quiet music began playing as soon as winners got on the stage thus subtly reminding them to make their speech within 30 seconds. Crash beating Brokeback Mountain was surprising considering that the latter won almost every other top award including the Golden Globe and the Bafta.

However the gay western put off Academy members who probably found the idea of two cowboys having overt sex repulslve. If the alternative was an in your face film that took a laudably frank and unblinking look at racism in Los Angeles, then so be it.

Nielsen also did research on advertising on the Oscars. The Oscar telecasts have maintained the same major advertiser presence for the past several years. Pepsi, Cadillac, JC Penney and American Express Travel continue to be the top advertisers during the Academy Awards. Last year's telecast had a total of 27? commercial minutes, with Pepsi airing 3 minutes of commercials, while Cadillac and JC Penney aired 2 ? minutes each. American Express and LOreal followed, each with a total of 2 commercial minutes. LOreal became a major advertiser in 2005, increasing their brand exposure significantly from one 30-second commercial in 2004 to four 30-second commercials in 2005.

The cost for a 30-second commercial has increased by roughly four per cent over the five-year period since 2001. Although the cost per commercial varies, total advertising expenditures during the programme shows a steady increase. There is also a fluctuation in the length of the program each year, seeing the biggest decrease in length in 2005 with just over three hours compared to over four hours in 2002.

Although the programme length decreased compared to prior years, last year's event had the greatest number of commercial minutes in the last five years.

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