Oscar...Oscar, Oscar: ABC's App Makes You Actually Want To Watch

Oscar-photo-BAs a certified film slut who has watched the Academy Awards for decades now, I admit my feelings are always mixed. My disenchantment started early. In 1973, when “The Sting” beat out “American Graffiti.” “Cries and Whispers” and “The Exorcist,” I was already prepared to stop watching. What the…?

It took a few years to grow myself a camp instinct that finally made the whole event watchable. For a number of years, bad was good, culminating in Rob Lowe singing “Proud Mary” to Snow White in 1989. Now it is just ritual, much like watching "Saturday Night Live" with the vain hope something interesting is going to happen.

The beauty of this year’s ABC app for Oscar season is that it reminds us there were indeed great moments. Released on the day the nominations were announced in Hollywood, and with handsome presentations of all nominees, the app is much improved from previous years. It is a deep dive into the red carpet fashion, the great acceptance speeches, and all of the trailers and promo images attached to the nominated films.  

I believe this is the third year ABC had updates to its Oscar app for iPad. This year it moves to Android and Kindle, and as always the app really is designed to light up on Oscar night. Its Backstage Pass feature will give the user multiple backstage camera views on the ceremony. This is one of the first apps to work in what later came to be known as “second screen” mode, and it always has been an interesting test case for new multi-screen concepts.

In its first iteration, for instance, we learned that too much in-app action can be distracting and confusing. It turns out that not many of us really wanted to play director and snap among nine views. I recall that last year the app calmed down a bit and tried to fix the problem with a director’s view that thankfully gave the user the choice of less choice.

ABC tells me that last year’s Oscar app has 1217% more downloads than the year before, perhaps reflecting as much the incredible uptake of iPad in its second year to market. The app served 1.7 million video views on the day of the awards and the app attracted 9.4 page views per session, almost double the previous year. While 48% of app users were on the iPad and 44% were on the iPhone last year, the tablet was the video viewing platform of choice. More than three-quarters of all the video consumed in the Oscar app was via the iPad.

And ABC certainly is monetizing these streams. The biggest weakness of the app comes from relentless pre-rolls. The same damned unfunny Samsung spot (Galaxy Note/co-workers tapping and trading annual reports) runs before every third or so movie trailer I viewed. And the same damned University of Phoenix spot runs with the same poor frequency cap on retrospective videos. We have said it before and we will say it again. If publishers insist on high frequency pre-rolls, then at least mix up the creative and make them shorter.

Oscar is supposed to be the Super Bowl for the beauty and fashion ad industry. We can use more of that creative spirit in the in-app ads.     

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