The Oscars are currently on TV. I’m not watching it – sorry Channel Nine – but I am flicking between the streaming webpage, tweets and other bits an bobs of sites.

When I speak and write on the COI of Social Media – the Cost of Inaction – one cost is cultural relevancy. If you are no longer relevant to a whole generation or two, what will happen?

Televising the Oscars

I mean imagine if the Academy had refused to allow the Oscars to be televised? Betcha there was a fight about putting the night of nights on the box way back when.

The 1st Academy Awards ceremony was held Thursday, May 16, 1929, at the Hotel Roosevelt in Hollywood to honor outstanding film achievements of 1927 and 1928. It was hosted by actor Douglas Fairbanks and director William C. deMille. The 82nd Academy Awards, honoring the best in film for 2009, was held on Sunday, March 7, 2010, at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, with actors Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin hosting the ceremony.[2]

Not only would they have become increasingly irrelevant, what about all the $$$ they would’ve missed out on?

The television network: ABC makes millions by selling advertising during the show for $10 thousand per second. Expensive stars, who would never otherwise appear on television, will work for free. The show itself is relatively cheap to produce compared to a movie or mini-series.

So what’s the problem? That money, that cultural history is under threat:

The Oscars and Ageing Demographic

Given the ancient demographic that runs, nominates, votes and otherwise controls the Academy Awards, it’s always a bit of a shock when someone under 40 gets a nomination:

One of the frequent criticisms of the Academy Awards is that its aging membership does not reflect popular demographic trends. In fact, there is a full generation gap between the ages of average members of AMPAS and the ages of active filmmakers. There are two or more generations between the ages of average members and average filmgoers. Some voting members are octogenarians who haven’t been to a theater in years.

At least two major stars (Henry Fonda and James Garner) admitted publicly that they let their wives fill out their ballots for them, prompting AMPAS to tighten up its voting procedures. (from Media Awareness Network, California)

Uh Oh.

The Academy Awards (now The Oscars) expanded the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10 this year in hopes of reviving the show’s declining TV ratings. That still may have an effect in future years, but I’d attribute any increase in this year’s ratings to the force of nature that has been Avatar.

The Academy Awards is still one of the biggest ratings events in television, and its ratings held up far better than most long running events until the turn of the 21st century. But a variety of changes in the last 10 years seem to have taken their toll, including shifting the broadcast from Monday at 9pm to Sunday at 8:30pm in 1999. 2008’s show during the TV writers strike, at just over 32 million viewers, was the least viewed ever. Viewership did pick up a bit last year, but was still very low on an historical basis.

Considering the Academy Awards viewership peak was the last time James Cameron made a movie (Titanic, also the top grossing of all time, at the time), I’d be stunned if we didn’t see an increase in the ratings this year. Forty million average viewers would not surprise me at all, but above 45 million would. (from TVByTheNumbers)

Sounds to me, that if Avatar doesn’t win, a whole generation or two will turn off the Oscars. Figuratively and literally. And the Academy can be a bit snobbish about blockbusters winning the big awards. That could be fatal…

The Oscars and social meda

So if The Oscars can turn television into a paying global concern with millions of viewers around the world, can they do the same with social media?

The Oscars tweets on Twitter were hopelessly out of date when I checked. The first time, it locked up my Mac (which is normally a good, stable, sweet little machine), second time the tweets seemed to be from weeks ago. The Oscar Tweeters are:

The Oscar Insiders
Adam Shankman
-Adam Shankman is a producer of the 82nd Academy Awards and an inveterate tweeter.

Ben Lyons (iambenlyons)
-Ben Lyons is the Official Oscar Backstage Twitter Correspondent.

Wolfgang Puck (WolfgangBuzz)
-Acclaimed chef Wolfgang Puck will be preparing the food for the Governors Ball after the ceremony.

Lorrin Millette (lorrinmillette)
-Lorrin works in marketing for the Academy and is in charge of the Red Carpet bleachers at the Oscars.

When I looked, the tweets weren’t even still on their page of tweets, and some looked days old. ie. guess who is presenting the supporting actors category. Surely that’s old news now?

Anyway, apparently you can tweet in questions for the stars. I didn’t notice a lot of that. The buzz seemed to be more like people in a pub chatting about the Oscars rather than lining up to ask official questions. More social than organisational.

The Oscars and Twitter

Of course the other side of social media is what other people say. Not using Twitter as a broadcast medium for the Academy but one for viewers and non viewers alike to talk.

richmeyer @brandingexpert You do realize that they spend over $400K for a buffet for celebrities at Oscars not to mention free goodies bag #oscars

@LesleyMag: Im hoping that the “stars” remember #Haiti tonight… so much suffering in the world right now – not up to watching Oscars

@eddiepepitone: So far the Oscars suck balls. So self-consciously unfunny it is unbelievable! We should do a benefit for these people,never mind Haiti!

@ktab note to cablevision users in new york/jersey, abc and cablevision have reached an agreement and the oscars are now showing on abc. #Oscars

The last tweet was important – the hundreds if not thousands of tweets expressing in strong terms disapproval with Cablevision and ABC refusing to come to an agreement on transmitting The Oscars were unprintable. If Twitter is good for one thing, it’s to call to account greedy and obstructive service providers. I don’t really care if it’s ABC or Cablevision that’s at fault. They can both go to their rooms. The days of leaving an audience in silent agony while companies play out manipulative board games are long gone.

Did you notice that Twitter users are also viewers of The Academy Awards? It’s the most highly rated trending topic even if a bunch of people are tweeting that they are NOT watching it and why not.

Perhaps in a world of fragmentation, the last tweet is the most relevant:

sydneyowen Okay so I’m not watching the oscars but I’m googling SJPs dress. Can anyone link me to what she’s wearing? Idk if Google is right?

jwendz @SydneyOwen Yellow Chanel Dress

So, here it is

because we’d miss the fashion, right? Riiight! 😛

Sometimes the best thing to do with social media, is just do your thing. And let others decide how they will consume, filter, forward, create and converse about it. Trying to push discussions into organisational lines – tweet us your questions! – might just get lost in the social buzz. And than can be a good thing…!

EDIT: Kathryn Bigelow won Best Director for Hurt Locker which won Best Picture. Her ex-husband, James Cameron directed Avatar. BOX OFFICE Hurt Locker took $14,700,000 in the US, 6 million internationally, 20 million all together. Avatar took $720,000,000 in the US,  1 billion, 800 million internationally, 2. 5 billion all together