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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 10, 2010

Oscar Revamps with Social Media Integration, New iPhone App for Viewers

By Kelly McGuire, TMCnet Editor

For many, award shows are a night of excitement, good fashion and a glimpse at those actors we love so much. When my mother and her girlfriends get together every year for their traditional “Oscar Night,” they doll up in their best “red carpet” attire, make snacks and drink champagne while watching Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock battle it out for actress of the year. 

And while some lasting fans have kept their dedication to the almost decade long show, the awards ceremony has taken quite a hit in viewership, hitting an all time low in 2008 and up only 13 percent in 2009 from the depressing ’08 results. So this year, on its 82nd annual telecast, the Oscar is undergoing some “reconstructive surgery,” as do many of Hollywood’s top runners. 

In an effort to attract new, younger viewers, with the average age of viewers in 2009 at 49.5 (right around my mom’s age – sorry mom!), the company is turning to social media to expand its viewership. According to reports, new media-friendly producers and a team of agency partners are working towards an aggressive social media strategy for this year’s show.

From streaming nominees on the Academy’s Facebook (News - Alert) page, to the expansion of the “best picture” slot from five to 10, Janet Weiss, director of Marketing for the Academy, said that viewers will never see an Oscar like this. 

In addition, there will be more video and exclusive content from nominees on the Oscar.com Web site as a way to make more social platforms for viewers and Web site users.

But wait, there’s more. The Academy is releasing an iPhone (News - Alert) application launching later this month which fans can use to see how their Oscar predictions stack up against others. 

The Academy plans to release behind-the-scenes footage from the preparations and rehearsals leading up to this year's telecast, which is also being syndicated to online video sites and digital out-of-home networks. 

“For a really conservative organization, we're trying to push the envelope into new media and new strategies,” Weiss said. “We're giving people a peek behind the curtain, and hopefully they'll see the Oscars is more relevant for them today.”

And while viewers won’t see an interactive integration of Twitter or Facebook while the show takes place – the Academy is not MTV after all – this year, there’s always next year. 

For Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman, the new media-friendly producers, and avid Twitter users, while all the social media changes can’t be accomplished this year, there’s hope for the future telecasts.

“If you look at the [Academy's] site, it's really better than it's ever been, so hopefully next year we'll be able to execute 50 percent of what we wanted to,” Mechanic said. “This year we'll probably only accomplish 20 percent of what we wanted.”

“We always wanted Twitter and Facebook to be used, not just by Adam but by others to speak to an audience that has not traditionally viewed the Oscars as important as it certainly is,” Mechanic added.

Kelly McGuire is a TMCnet Web editor, covering CRM and workforce technologies, and anchor of its daily TMC Newsroom video broadcast. Kelly also writes about eco-friendly 'green' technologies and smart grids, compiling TMCnet's weekly e-Newsletters on those topics, as well as the cable industry. To read more of Kelly's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Kelly McGuire