Oscars Ratings Woes Continue

91st Annual Academy Awards, Show, Los Angeles, USA - 24 Feb 2019

This year’s Oscars should have been a win for Hollywood, but trouble still follows Hollywood’s once prestigious annual event.

According to preliminary figures, ratings for the 91st Academy Awards were up slightly. Unfortunately, it is not enough to assuage anxiety over the awards show’s downward trend.

The second host-less Academy Awards ended up having the second-smallest audience in Oscar history. Audience size for this year was 28 million, according to the calculations of The Hollywood Reporter. This figure is up about 6 percent over the disastrous Kimmel-hosted show’s preliminary ratings of the previous year. Viewer-ship size was based on a 20.1 rating/33 share in metered-market households.

In 2018 box-office revenues seemed to have ticked up, and a lot of folks who were watching this year’s show had actually seen three of the Best Picture nominees: “Black Panther,” “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and “A Star is Born.” “Panther” took in a haul of more than $700 million in domestic gross, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star is Born” each earned over $200 million. The success of the cinematic trio should have been enough to garner a larger audience than had been seen in the past few years.

It has been downright gloomy for those following the trend in ratings for the Academy Awards show. The overall concern over whether the Oscars were losing their allure was palpable. Last year’s show, which was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, fell double digits from the previous year, sinking to the lowest ratings level for the show ever.

Although the ratings of all awards shows have been on the decline, Disney-owned ABC had to have been alarmed when it learned that viewer-ship for the 2018 Oscar show had dropped 25 percent in the key 18 to 49 demographic.

This year the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences tried a number of different things to give the sagging ratings a jumpstart. It released a series of proposals, all of which received significant backlash with the end result being the same – a cave by the Academy at the first sign of pushback.

In late 2018, the Academy came up with an idea for a new category that would grant awards to “popular” films. The thinking was to try and include nominees and winners that movie fans simply adored, thereby creating more buzz and bringing in more viewers. The blowback by film artists of all types was fierce, and the Academy relented.

The Academy tried picking a popular host that might prove to be a ratings magnet. It reached out to the highest paid actor currently in the industry, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. However, The Rock’s shooting schedule got in the way so the pick was a no-go.

Oscar leadership then turned to another popular Hollywood figure, Kevin Hart. The attempt to secure the mega-successful comedic actor turned into a PR debacle for the Academy. Hart had a decade-old tweet history that came back to haunt him. Once again the leadership couldn’t handle the flack that it received. CEO Dawn Hudson reportedly telephoned Hart to ask him to apologize for his past Twitter posts. This infuriated Hart, and he ended up withdrawing from the hosting gig, leading to the decision to broadcast a host-less telecast for the first time since 1989.

Then there was the time issue. For years, ABC-Disney had been pleading with the Academy to shorten the length of the Oscar telecast. The Academy leadership came up with an arrangement to abbreviate the normally long-winded telecast by awarding four of the ceremony’s prizes during the commercial breaks and then craftily editing the award winners into a later show slot.

Although the Academy believed that consensus for the plan could be developed by showing representatives from various branches a video demonstration of the newly conceived format, a high profile rebellion caused the Academy to reverse itself. Major creative players in movies, which included Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino, signed an open letter condemning the idea. A few short days later the Academy melted.

Producers of this year’s show were able to cut 35 minutes from the overall length, when compared to the previous year. This was done by eliminating montages and mid-telecast comedy. However, the telecast still ended up being about 3 hours and 20 minutes long.

A December 2018 Morning Consult/The Hollywood Reporter survey found that ABC and the Academy were correct in their attempt to shorten the Oscar telecast. Forty-eight percent of adults said the Oscars telecast was too long.

A close second in annoyance terms to the overly long airtime of the Oscar show is the political content that is being pushed by Hollywood celebrities. The poll indicates that 39 percent of adults are less likely to watch awards shows when celebrities express their political views, and the number rises to 59 percent when viewers self-identify as Republicans.

Reportedly, in addition to the perpetually failing effort to shorten the duration of acceptance speeches at the Oscars, the Academy and producers of the telecast were apparently working hard behind the scenes to convince presenters and recipients of the awards to leave their politics at home.

Well, it didn’t work. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph, the first group of presenters at the awards show, joked about the proposed “popular” film category, and apparently Rudolph could not restrain herself from tossing a political barb into her intro punch line.

“We are not your hosts,” Fey was quick to explain. Rudolph interrupted saying, “So just a quick update in case you’re confused. There is no host tonight, there will be no popular movie category and Mexico is not paying for the wall.”

Other presenters were quick to follow suit. While introducing the Best Foreign Language Film winner, actor Javier Bardem, who delivered his remarks in Spanish, took a veiled swipe at President Trump’s border security measures.

ABC translated Bardem’s speech in the following way: “There are no borders or walls that can restrain ingenuity or talent. In any region of any continent, there are always great stories that move us. And tonight, we celebrate the excellence and importance of the cultures and languages of different countries.”

Following Bardem’s comments, comedian Keegan Michael Key placed an open umbrella on the ground, imitating the president’s actions in 2018 prior to boarding Air Force One.

During his acceptance speech for Best Adapted Screenplay, director Spike Lee jumped into campaign mode in making a pitch for the 2020 presidential election, saying, “Let’s make the right choice, let’s be on the right side of history.”

“The 2020 election is right around the corner,” Lee said.

Tim Allen: Liberals Have a ‘Very Small Window of Sense of Humor’

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In a recent interview with IndieWire, film and television star Tim Allen reacted to the astounding success of his current TV sitcom “Last Man Standing.”

During the interview, the actor provided some insight into his approach to comedy writing and delivery, particularly his use of humor directed at left-of-center ideology.

“I think it’s funny to make fun of people that are full of themselves. Liberals have a very small window of sense of humor about themselves, so I love poking at it,” Allen said.

Allen brought up a current practice in which many liberals routinely engage; that is, the avoidance of rational debate via the mallet of identity politics.

“[R]ight now liberals, particularly progressives, hide behind large concepts,” Allen noted. “If you don’t agree with them, if you don’t agree with that position, then you hate women, and you hate gay people, and you hate pro-choice people…”

Revealing a bit about the motivation behind his style of humor, Allen said, “I like p***ing people off,” adding that “…there’s nothing, especially in this area, that p***es people off more than a very funny conservative.”

“A smart, funny conservative that takes shots and is certainly self-effacing. The left-wing point of view is so pervasive that they don’t even realize it’s a point of view,” Allen said.

Allen’s show is in its seventh season, having enjoyed six successful seasons, until ABC inexplicably canceled it and Fox brought it back. The Fox network picked up “Last Man Standing” and has been running away with it in the ratings. The actor has rightly questioned whether ABC chose to get rid of the successful sitcom because of Allen’s personal political positions, an explanation that is certainly within the realm of possibility.

“When we knew Tim was up for doing it, we jumped at the chance,” Fox Entertainment President Michael Thorn said. “He’s obviously a huge TV star, and we felt the show could resonate for our audience.”

Helping with the decision was the huge ratings success of the reboot “Roseanne.” It was certainly not lost on the Fox executives that both shows were family-oriented comedies, with lead characters that possess conservative political views.

Ironically, “Roseanne” was also canceled by ABC. And ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey, who terminated sitcom star Roseanne Barr, is now on her way out amid ABC corporate parent Disney’s pending acquisition of 21st Century Fox and the planned reorganization of Disney television.

Adding to ABC’s headaches is the fact that the replacement series for “Roseanne,” “The Conners,” is tanking in the ratings. The network has committed to only one additional episode, sparking rumors that the show may be canceled. Additionally, it has been reported that two of the shows stars, John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, have been asked to take a pay cut.

Meanwhile with “Last Man Standing” Fox is basking in the sunlight of sitcom success. The show’s Sept. 28 debut was Fox’s most-watched Friday telecast in 18 years, with a whopping 2.7 rating among adults 18-49 and 12.4 million multi-platform viewers. Fox has been at the top in the difficult Friday night lineup for six weeks, its longest streak in more than seven years.

“I certainly bumped into a number of people who had never seen the show when it was on ABC, that had found it in syndication. So I was hoping it would get maybe a little bit of boost. I did not expect that number,” Allen said.

Reportedly, Fox plans to place “WWE Smackdown” on Fridays next year, so “Last Man Standing” will likely move to a mid-week spot next season. Until then you can still catch it on Fridays at 8 p.m. on Fox.

In an age of cord cutting and streaming entertainment, Allen still sees advantages in traditional broadcasting. The actor loves the ability of traditional broadcast television to be capable of incorporating current events and issues into the programming. He refers to this attribute as “fresh television.”

“I think eventually, you come back to broadcast television,” Allen said. “This isn’t streaming. Streaming to me is processed food. You don’t know when that was made, you don’t know, there’s no expiration date on it. This stuff was made recently. You get ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and to all of us on broadcast, we’re doing this right now. This is fresh television.”

The Business Toll of Taking a Knee

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A once great institution is literally in the process of destroying itself.

For the longest time the National Football League was the top drawing sport on television. Now it looks as though it is willingly abdicating its ratings throne.

In the season just prior to the current one, 34 of the top 40 televised sports games were NFL football match-ups. Come the fall of 2017, however, the NFL’s popularity took a severe hit and so, too, did the league’s bottom line.

Regarding the current season, TV ratings have declined almost 20 percent, while the television networks have reportedly lost as much as 500 million in advertising dollars.

When compared with the previous year’s numbers, ratings for Week 11 dropped 6.3 percent. And the traditional prime time Thanksgiving NFL game ratings were 10 percent lower than last year.

Millions of football fans have opted to change the channel on the TV set, cancel season tickets, and/or protest in countless other ways over the disrespect of the national anthem that has been shown by many.

The ratings downturn has been accompanied by surprisingly small stadium crowds across the country. In cities populated by die-hard sports fans, the highly unusual sight of empty seats has become commonplace.

In the sports crazed town of Chicago, a recent Bears home game played to a Soldier Field stadium in which over 16 percent of the seats were unoccupied, which meant that more than 10,000 tickets went unused.

The league’s all-important brand, which has been decades in the making, appears to have been severely marred in mere months. The NFL in large part has Colin Kaepernick to thank. The unemployed quarterback kicked off a wave of national anthem protests by football players across the league.

Last season, rather than standing during a performance of the national anthem, Kaepernick knelt down; this was in violation of the written policy of the NFL.

At a time when his career was on the wane and his playing days were coming to an end, Kaepernick managed to make himself more conspicuous than other professional football players by ignoring league policy and, more importantly, insulting the NFL’s primary consumers.

According to the league’s game operations manual, “The national anthem must be played before every NFL game, and all players must be on the sideline for the national anthem. During the national anthem, players on the field and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag, hold helmets in their left hand, and refrain from talking.”

Despite the fact that the manual’s language could not be any clearer, Kaepernick’s act of disrespect to the league and to the country was not only condoned by the media elites, among others, but it was praised.

In one of the most absurd accolades to come along in the history of publishing, as part of its “Men of the Year” edition, with the subtitle “The New American Heroes,” GQ Magazine honored the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback with its “Citizen of the Year” title.

It seems as though young athletes are the ones who have really been led astray by the heaping of praise upon the undignified behavior.

–Four high school football players in Michigan were preparing to take a knee but were benched before they could carry out their plans.

–Two Texas high school players were thrown off their team after protesting during the anthem.

–Child football players in Illinois, on a team made up of boys who were 8-years-old and younger, were joined by their coach in kneeling during the anthem.

–After football players at a New Jersey high school knelt during the anthem, two referees walked from the game in disgust. The referees were subsequently suspended for the remainder of the season while the players escaped reprimand or punishment.

Protests by professional football players have continued to harm the NFL’s bruised image. During Week 12 of the most recent season, which was played over this past weekend, Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters failed to come out of the locker room; Philadelphia Eagles safeties Malcolm Jenkins and Rodney McLeod raised their fists, as did Los Angeles Chargers left tackle Russell Okung; and Miami Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, safety Michael Thomas, tight end Julius Thomas as well as New York Giants defensive end Olivier Vernon all knelt down while the anthem played.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come under fire for allowing the protests to grow and continue. This is the same Goodell who is reportedly demanding a $50 million salary and private jet service for life as part of his new contract. He is currently paid $30 million a year.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who used to be an ardent supporter of Goodell, is now leading an insurgency against the commissioner and has declared that he will sue the NFL if Goodell’s contract extension is finalized without the approval of all team owners.

Former University of Georgia, USFL, and NFL running back Herschel Walker has placed the blame for the NFL protests squarely on Goodell.

“I absolutely think the protests are so upsetting, and I blame the commissioner,” Walker told the New York Post. “I know people are going to be angry when I say it, but he should have stopped the protests at the very beginning.”