Oscars shake-up: shorter broadcast, “popular” film category.

The Academy Awards is facing a major shake-up to fend off shrinking television ratings and a fear of becoming irrelevant.

Next year’s 91st Oscars will face a three hour time limit and a new category for most “Popular” film -but it is already copping some backlash.

“We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world,” president John Bailey and its CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in a note to members. “The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.”

They added, “We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.”

To rein in at three hours, some awards will be handed out during commercial breaks, with moments edited and aired later in the broadcast. That’s a move the Tony Awards has embraced.

Organisers will introduce a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film, but the criteria is yet to be stated. Films can be nominated for both outstanding achievement in popular film and for the Academy Award for best picture.

Variety reports the 26.6 million viewers averaged by the 2018 Oscars, according to Nielsen live-plus-same day numbers, represented a 19% decline from 2017, and 39% drop from the show’s recent peak in 2014. Numbers for younger viewers were even worse. Ratings in the 18-49 demo fell 24% from 2017 and 47% from 2014. The 18-34 demo was down 29% from 2017 and 56% from 2014.

Other awards shows, such as the Emmys and Grammys, have also faced recent ratings declines, but none nearly so steep.

But the changes are already attracting criticism. As one columnist notes, “This is the worst of these ham-fisted maneuvers because it’s such a condescending stance toward popular cinema to take at a time when the Academy is making as many moves as possible to open the gates to all forms of cinema (i.e., waving in a thousand new members, being aggressively proactive on diversity in the voting ranks, etc.). It’s a stiff backhand to those efforts, in fact, because it outright states that popular films need to be ghettoized.”

Over its 90 year history, the Oscars has alway seen change. In 2009 it expanded the Best Picture from five to a possible 10 nominees in a bid to remain broadly relevant.


  1. To me the problem is too many awards to moves we have never heard of until we see the list of nominations while the movies that we do know of and dominate advertising and all are just mostly bad or yet another super hero type rehash.

  2. I used to love watching the Oscars, it was a spectacle and a dream of one day having the opportunity to receive one myself…. who hasn’t stood in front of the mirror holding the hairbrush reciting your acceptance speech. Now I don’t even bother tuning in. Maybe because I am getting older but I really don’t care what the Hollywood elite have to say at these events, it’s all so fake, to me the whole thing these days comes across as privileged people giving themselves a pat on the back for being privileged. If I have to hear about how a woman got paid only $20 million dollars for a film her male co-star got paid $50 million for and how ‘unfair’ the gender pay gap is I think I will throw up, when you have a country of people who’s minimum wage doesn’t even pay their rent. I just usually run through the list of winners after the event and then we all discuss how great films and…

  3. I like the sound of the popular awards.
    If a film has gone spectacularly at the box office it should be rewarded for that. I feel like most of the movies that win the Oscar are Arthouse kind of movies. Sure they are probably technically great movies….. if you can stay awake.

  4. Its not so much an Academy Awards decline but a decline in the quality of the movie industry in general, the days of the old Hollywood glitter and glamour has gone,now we have the ever changing crop of stars who are more media personality idols than classic movie star celebrities. Its likely that the commercial emphasis on promoting big budget CG blockbusters over making a good well scripted movie classic had started the rot, that and the continuing diversification of the entertainment industry reducing the audiences at cinemas did the rest with Netflix starting a new round of paranoia in America by ignoring mainstream cinema release for their products, the former cosy financial arrangements will not be so easy to negotiate when world wide marketing is controlled so effectively by mega companies like Netflix, and coming soon Disney.

    • You’ve made some good points there. I have usually gone to the cinema weekly for most of my life, but the past couple of years have struggled to find one movie a month that I’m interested in seeing.

  5. All awards should be treated like getting a diploma, you hand the the trophy n walk off the stage. There should be no speeches, no thanking producers or family, etc. The only exception should be the major awards eg Gold Logie.

  6. Viewership declines have been happening since well before Trump was elected. So, no, political comment is not what is causing the decline. The Academy is also aware that viewership has historically increased when a popular movie is up for the Best Picture prize.

    Declines are more to do with the increase of event movies dominating mainstream cinema attendance and the continued support of more traditional, humanistic cinema by Academy voters.

    Also, all art is political. An industry event attended by artists to support an art-driven industry is therefore going to be political to some degree.

  7. What a bunch of idiots.

    Declining ratings is due to viewers switching off as recent award events are becoming too political with the anti-Trump rants. Such behaviour is juvenile and irrelevant. Hollywood should stick to making good entertainment and keep their political views private.

    • One of the stranger comments I’ve ever read here. Declining ratings over several years now would suggest it has nothing to do with anti Trump statements. Television ratings are declining across the board, and the telecast of the Oscars and other awards shows are not immune, just saying.

    • Jᴏʜɴɴʏ1ᴘ5

      While viewers could be leaving because of political comments in acceptance speeches due to be wanting to be entertained rather than what some may see as dictated to by Hollywood, it has been going on long before Trump got on the radar (back when Obama became President). An example is in 2006 when George Clooney talked about how Hollywood and its stars were always ahead of the trend when it came to causes.

      It irked people a bit, in fact so much so that it inspired a South Park episode based around the attitude of owners of hybrid cars and whole progressive movement … as in:

      “A cloud of smug forms over South Park and begins to combine with that of San Francisco. McFriendly informs the town that a cloud of smug from George Clooney’s 78th Academy Awards acceptance speech will soon drift between the two potential storms, merging them together to create a system which will heavily…

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