This year’s Oscar telecast was the lowest-rated since 2008. I recently wrote a column stating that one way to revitalize the broadcast is to spread out the major awards, presenting one every 45 minutes, rather than rushing through them post-11 p.m. As I was watching this year’s show, I thought maybe they were listening. They always start out with Best Supporting Actor, and then go an hour and a half or so before the next acting award. This time, 45 minutes later, they gave out Best Supporting Actress. But then two full hours — the heart of prime time — went by before the next major award, Best Director, was handed out (at 11:40pm).
Best Picture, as usual, was presented after midnight, and after Nielsen stops measuring the show’s national ratings, since it only tracks up to the last national commercial pod.
There was a time, long ago, when it made sense to hold back the major awards to keep people tuned in. But in today’s social media world, the Academy is much better off presenting most of the major awards during peak viewing times (between 9 and 11 p.m). Especially with a live awards show, social media discussions could drive viewers to the broadcast in mid-show. As it is now, there’s not much to talk about before 11 p.m, and not much reason for people to tune in before then. I wonder if there would have been that mix-up had they not been rushing to end the show.
While the Oscars are still higher rated than anything besides the Super Bowl, if structural changes aren’t made to the broadcast, ratings will continue to decline.
Broadcast Networks Need to Cross-Promote New Series
CBS’s new show, “Doubt,” only lasted two episodes. I suspect that had it been promoted on other broadcast networks, it would have gotten significantly more viewer sampling. Most people had no idea it was even on.
It still boggles my mind that broadcast networks ignore the largest group of easily targeted potential viewers: those who are watching similar programming on other broadcast networks, who are at their most receptive to a message about a similar program. These networks accept ads from HBO, Netflix, and ad-supported cable networks, but not from one another. Cable networks long ago figured out that cross-promotion works.
Should CBS All Access be Programmed Like Netflix?
“The Good Wife” was one of my wife’s favorite shows. We saw the first episode of its spin-off, “The Good Fight,” on CBS. Subsequent episodes will be available only on CBS All Access (at $5.99 per month). One episode will be available each week, as if it was on a traditional broadcast network. But it’s not on a traditional broadcast network!
We think “The Good Fight” is a great TV show, but have not yet subscribed. We might by the time all episodes are available, but by then inertia may have set in.
Airing one new show once a week is not incentive enough for us to spend the extra money (we already subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime). Had CBS made all episodes available for streaming at once, we would have subscribed right after the pilot.
It’s hard to explain this to someone who does not subscribe to any SVOD services, but making all episodes available right away is a substantially stronger selling point than one episode per week. Fitting one new weekly show into our viewing schedule is not the same as making time to binge-stream a new show (which is more akin to event viewing). When the new “Star Trek” series is ready, making all the episodes available at once would undoubtedly increase subscribers much more than releasing one episode per week.