Did Disney Nix Oscar Cross-Network Promotion?
Don't give an inch -- even if it might mean bigger laughs.
Seems the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was well along in negotiations to get late-night NBCer Jimmy Fallon to host the Oscars -- which has run for decades on ABC -- when Disney-ABC put the brakes on.
AMPAS, unlike almost all other TV producers, has a special deal with its network: It not only gets to approve who hosts and appears on its show but also all advertising.
Now, Fallon seems to be out of the mix. Why? Insiders say Disney-ABC executives did not put the kibosh on Fallon’s ascension, although technically ABC has no say in the decision.
For his part, Fallon told Matt Lauer on NBC's "Today": "No, I’m not going to do the Oscars... It’s an honor to be asked by the Academy, but it’s not my year.”
Huh? Not ready for one of the biggest-rated shows of the year? Hmm. Do you do more work hitting the breaking ball, or do you have a .300-plus batting average that no one recognizes.
According to reports, Disney-ABC believes that having Fallon host the event was too close for comfort because he competes directly with ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. ("Jimmy Kimmel Live" airs midnight to 1 a.m., "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.).
What doesn't make sense is that through the years, all kinds of actors and performers have appeared during the "Academy Awards" -- even though the Oscar is mostly for film actors who generally don't always align themselves with current TV programming fare.
From Disney-ABC's point of view, the Oscars are the second highest-rated show of the year. That's a big TV promotional and marketing tool. Giving Fallon what amounts to three and a half hours of promotional time on ABC is too close to home.
But it's not as if late-night hosts -- from broadcast and cable networks -- haven't previously graced ABC’s Oscar airwaves as master of ceremonies. Comedy Central's Jon Stewart hosted the event twice, CBS' David Letterman once, and NBC's Johnny Carson many, many times.
Why didn't ABC complain then? Disney-ABC might believe this is a more competitive environment. NBC and ABC have been fighting for third best network in recent periods -- both now somewhat behind Fox and CBS in terms of 18-49 viewers. NBC actually claimed third best network this past season -- with the help of "Sunday Night Football." Without that show, ABC came in third place.
The Oscars celebrate all entertainment performers -- in theory. Similarly, this is what the Emmys do every year, and the big broadcast networks all take a turn airing it. That's not the case for the Oscars, where ABC has had the show exclusively since 1976.
All this touches on a bigger issue that TV Watch has mentioned before: cross-network broadcast promotion is something networks should seriously consider for the benefit of the entire business. In that regard, the first cross-network efforts, if any, perhaps won't come with typical 30-second commercial-like promos; they may happen in the content of a show itself.
But this is too soon for the likes of ABC.