Oscar Dreams Of Big Telecast Numbers

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Recent trends of higher ratings for TV awards shows might have ABC dreaming of big numbers as well for "The 83rd Annual Academy Awards" show this Sunday.  

Ratings of "The Grammys" and the "Golden Globes" pulled in some of their best numbers in years. "The Grammys" pulled in 26.7 million viewers this year -- its best total in seven years. "The Golden Globes" nabbed 17 million, its best results since 2007.

Nielsen Wire, a Web service of The Nielsen Company, guesses this might translate into big viewership for the biggest entertainment award show -- "The Academy Awards" on ABC. "The increased viewership for awards shows coincides with the recent trend toward larger audiences for live events," stated Pat McDonough, senior vice president of insights and analysis at Nielsen.

Last year, "The 82nd Annual Academy Awards" pulled in 41.7 million viewers, the biggest results in five years. The best picture award went to "The Hurt Locker," helped by interest in "Avatar," which went on to become the highest-grossing box-office movie ever.

What also helped the Oscars a year ago was that the best picture award category grew to 10 nominations from five. "Going from five to 10, you are increasing the potential audience," says David Scardino, entertainment specialist for Santa Monica, Calif.-based media agency RPA.

All this may be part of a larger trend. Scardino says in a recent period, 20 of 23 broadcast special TV programs -- sports, Emmys, Oscars, and other events -- posted higher numbers than in the previous year.

Plus, the biggest TV special -- and now the biggest TV program of all time -- the Super Bowl posted TV viewership records in the last six years, from 2006 to 2011. Helping the Super Bowl was that many of these games were closely fought contests -- versus a decade ago, when many could be lopsided affairs.

Why the rush to special TV events? "Every quarter, for some time, there has been around a 2% rise in overall viewing for TV," says Scardino. "Within each period one gets more fragmentation. However, the nature of live events -- once a year -- gives them more cache."

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