The entrance to the Dolby theater in Los Angeles was again awash with red carpet, cacophonous with media scrimmaging and illuminated with the brightest stars, as it hosted the 88th Academy Award ceremony. The traditional media glare lit up the glamorous veneers of the actors of the most acclaimed movies of the year as they entered the auditorium to await the Academy’s selection. But once the dust had settled from a night which addressed issues from race, domestic violence, global warming to the traditional gossip of fashion hits and misses, rating results revealed the ceremony was the lowest-rated Academy Awards in eight years. So what happened? The ingredients of High fashion coupled with school yard gossip which fuels channels such as E! hitched to the anticipation of the Academy’s response to socio-demographic issues which preempted the event, appeared to make for a ceremony which catered to all possible viewing demographics? The answer to such a poor ratings may lye not in how engaging the content of the ceremony was, but in how the content is being engaged.
While ABC executives may be meeting over the next few days to address the rating slump, the topic of social media will no doubt arise in their discussions. The ABC network results are down 8% and 5% respectively in total viewership and the key demographic from last years event. Contrarily social media feeds were awash with Oscar related news and content. Facebook, the original social media juggernaut, appears to be becoming the primary news resource for the modern age. Replacing the newsstand, it is becoming the hub of the traditional press, and their go to medium on how to reach their readers. For example Print giants such as the Guardian and the Times promoted their live blog heavily on Facebook to receive traffic. Large discussions on the ceremony also took place in the comment sections of Oscar related posts.
While traditional media are commenting via live blogs online their potential audience are conversing on Twitter about the show. With ceremony related hashtags such as #OscarsSoWhite, in relations to host Chris Rocks initial monologue addressing of the lack of black nominees which he continued to jab at throughout the event, trending world wide. Widespread vindication for Leonardo Di Caprio finally receiving the best actor award was also made clear on the platform along with other discussions about the ceremony.
Whilst Facebook and Twitter are keeping the conversation of the event going, ABC and other networks must compete with platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat which are offering behind the scenes insight which television networks cannot offer. Be it the individual updates actors are posting of their experience, or the Oscars themselves offering behind stage preparation and content on Instagram it offers a unique perspective of the event for followers.
Snapchat also had running stories of the pre-show, ceremony and the Vanity Fair after party available for the app users, again offering content which television networks simply cannot compete with.
So to return to the meeting of ABC executives this week in a New York skyscraper, as they discuss the future for their coverage of the event, Social media will be a central theme on how to reverse the ratings slump. With the content of the show generating interest across social media platforms for the following hours and days, the drama and glitz of the event are as attractive and enticing ever. But the move to viewing the content from the television screen to the small screen appears to be the greatest threat to the Networks coverage of the event. With research showing that content is being viewed on multiple screens simultaneously in the modern household, entertainment companies have developed itself across many platforms as a result. But the future may point to a return to the viewing of just one screen, the small screen.