The Oscars used to be “Must See TV” right behind the big football game that shall not be named without express written consent from the NFL. In 2010, more than 41 million people tuned in to see “The Hurt Locker” win Best Picture and Kathryn Bigelow make history as the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director. By comparison, Sunday night’s Academy Awards drew just under 17 million viewers, the second-lowest ratings ever for an Oscars broadcast.
There are plenty of opinions about how to “fix” the Oscars. While we’re at it, we might want to address the Grammys, Emmys, and Tony Awards as well. Their ratings have continued to plummet just like the Oscars. We already lost the Golden Globes. The Hollywood Foreign Press couldn’t even bother to put on a show this year. It all begs the question – how has this once golden brand, gone so bad?
First, know thyself.
Brand attrition isn’t anything new. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 20 percent of new businesses fail in the first year with more than 70 percent failing by year 10. But the Oscars isn’t a startup. It’s closing in on 100 years in business having awarded the first Best Picture trophy to “Wings” in 1929. What it’s become is another cautionary tale for brands too myopic to thrive.
At its height in 1998, the Oscars drew more than 55 million viewers. Is there greater competition for viewer attention now? Yes. Have America’s programming tastes changed over time? Clearly. Are those of us in the peanut gallery tired of getting preached at about every political hot potato from celebrities so out of touch they fly private jets to the Oscars ceremony in one moment and decry global warming the next? You bet. But the Academy doesn’t seem to get that.