With few blockbusters in the mix, little drama about the outcome and an untested, non comic host (Hugh Jackman), Sunday's Academy Award telecast is shaping up to be the lowest rated ever.
Who thinks so? Advertisers, for one. As reported in Mediaweek, two ad giants, L'Oreal Paris and troubled automaker General Motors, have pulled out of the telecast, leaving ABC scrambling to sell 6-8 spots just a week before the event.
This for a showcase that traditionally attracts one of the biggest TV audiences of the year. Yet with the economy in the tank, ABC, according to Mediaweek, has slashed its ratecard 18% for this year's Oscar telecast.
To make matters worse, the show is not exactly on a roll. Viewership, especially in the younger demos, is down dramatically. Last year's Oscars hit a historic low in the U.S., with 31.76 million viewers tuning in, down from 39.9 million the year before (and down 24% in the 18-49-year-old demo). The year Titanic won, in 1998, 55.2 million viewers tuned in.
Last year's winner, by the way, was No Country For Old Men. Slumdog Millionaire is the heavy favourite to take the Best Picture prize this year.
The one picture that might have pulled Oscar out of its slump (especially among younger viewers), is hardly in the mix: The Dark Knight. Heath Ledger will win for Best Supporting Actor, but there are no other bat-nominations to take advantage of that $1 billion worldwide box office buzz.
One place the Academy Awards still seems to pack a punch is Canada. Last year, 4.424 million viewers tuned in, ranking it ahead of CTV's 2008 Super Bowl broadcast. In the U.S., Super Bowl beats Oscar by a 3-1 score.
The 81st Annual Academy Awards begins Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. and ends 16 hours later. CTV is attempting to sandwich an episode of still amazingly popular The Amazing Race (7.p.m.) between their eTalk red carpet coverage (6 p.m. E.T.) and ABC's Oscar pre-show simulcast (8 p.m.). There's also an afternoon full of butt-numbing, eTalk Follows Hugh Jackman to the Kodak Theater Bathroom specials all Sunday afternoon on Star, A, FashionTelevision, GiddyFix, Fecan! and 45 other CTV specialty channels.