Whether you’re the type to curl up on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s or invite the entire neighborhood over, the fact remains the same: The Oscars are on Sunday. By now, die-hard movie fans are getting behind their favorite movies to win, but something else is occupying the attention of those running what may be the most well-known awards ceremony – the fact that ratings for the show have been at a low the last few years, with ratings reaching a nadir in 2008 and meager gains in viewers in 2009. So, what’s an awards show to do?
Among other changes to The Academy Awards, like the expansion of the “Best Picture” category to ten films in order to gather more mainstream interest and having two co-hosts, a big focus has been placed on social and digital media. Primarily this serves to capture the ever-elusive younger demographic, while concurrently reigniting interest within the waning fan-base. Even given the fact that Robert Pattinson won’t be attending the show (of Twilight fame, for our non-tween readers out there), there may still be enough going on to garner the most hardcore of Twilight fans.
Firstly, The Oscars now has an official iPhone app, the digital media de rigueur, which has some nifty features. Chief among those is the ability to make predictions and share your picks through social networking sites or e-mail, and the complete list of nominees as well as information on the nominees and movie trailers. Additionally, The Oscars website touts Twitter feeds from insiders at the Awards. In its current form it appears rather limited in its content, focusing on the producer of the Awards Adam Shankman and chef Wolfgang Puck; yet, it definitely is a step in the right direction of appropriate use of social media to engage potential viewers and bring unique perspectives. Similarly, The Academy has a Facebook page giving fans the expected updates on their wall, extra behind the scenes photos of preparations, some video clips, and a section for live streaming. Nominations were streamed on the latter section of their Facebook page on the Tuesday before the show, marking a first for The Oscars. Finally, the official website for The Oscars includes extras like an online play along game to make predictions in real-time during the show as well as trivia questions and factual tidbits.
Undoubtedly this is a step in the right direction for reinvigorating interest in one of Hollywood’s biggest nights, laying the foundation for bolder digital and social media initiatives to build themselves upon in future years. The social and digital media push at the Oscars is sure to gain some new fans and internet presence. Given that, it’s easy to make the case that those running the show could have taken an even more dramatic step in that same direction. For instance, some sort of integration of Twitter or Facebook into the live telecast would have been interesting, or maybe a live play-along game that doubled as a contest that had cash prizes. One could even imagine a “Fantasy Oscar Winner” Facebook app where viewers form groups and compete against one another for prizes. Additionally, why not get everyone at the Academy Awards in on Twitter with a unified and searchable interface on The Oscar’s website? While reading Wolfgang Puck tweet about how good the chicken smells is nice, it seems plausible that a more concerted tweeting effort would yield bits of information to fans that were even juicier than said chicken. Though The Oscars are known to be averse to giving out any secrets, they could even just build in a few more “secrets” to reveal through social media to tantalize the masses. Social media is a wonderful thing and the more creativity, the more buzz, the better.
Regardless, the aforementioned effort is still a lot of new stuff to be excited about for big fans and casual observers alike. Since it is a common sentiment that 2009 was a landmark year for blockbuster movies, there’s a good chance that The Academy Awards will gain large amounts of viewers even not considering the cool new social and digital media blitz. While it will be difficult to see the latter’s effect, there’s no doubt it will be winning some new viewers over and preparing The Oscars for an even bigger social media presence in the years to come.
No more time to waste: Find out what Puck is making for dessert, put in your favorite picks to ensure proper bragging rights, and enjoy the ride. This is a good year to enjoy The Oscars.
For the rabid Oscar fan, here are some links for further reading…
Stars may be aligned for improved Oscar ratings – Miami Herald