OPINION: Does ‘decline’ of Oscars reflect lifestyle change?

BANGKOK (The Nation/ANN) - Digital culture may be seriously affecting TV live broadcasts.

Analysts and film pundits are scratching their heads, wondering why this year’s telecast of the Oscar awards presentation hit such a low point in ratings – in fact, the lowest in many years. Even US President Donald Trump joked about it, saying the plunge may have to do with a drop in acting quality. The real reason, however, may be simpler than what many people think.

The ratings for the 2018 Academy Awards were the lowest ever recorded, according to Nielsen’s viewing figures for the ceremony. It said that 26.5 million US viewers watched the ABC network’s live broadcast of the four-hour show, a 16-per-cent drop from 2017. The ratings, rather significantly, do not include digital or mobile viewers.

Trump joined many critics in ridiculing the disappointing figures, tweeting that the low numbers were because “we don’t have stars anymore – except your President (just kidding, of course)!”Many people think Trump was right. However, many others believe it has little to do with saturation of CGI (computer-generated imagery), poorer acting quality or too much activism or politicisation. This latter group is convinced that we are just looking at a social phenomenon coming to a head.

There was a trendy saying just a few years ago that “news will find you”, while earlier it used to be “you will have to find news”. Today, people are better informed than at any point in history, which is an irony considering how news companies are struggling financially. It’s the same with the Oscars. 

That fewer people are watching it live on TV does not necessarily mean public interest is waning. After all, everyone knew within minutes the winner of the best picture and who had held hold aloft the best actor/actress trophies.In the past, as far as the Oscars were concerned, in order to be among the first to know who were the winners in which categories one had no choice but to watch the live telecast. Today, Twitter can relay results virtually instantly. Line is no different and Facebook the same. If you are not an avid fan who fancies watching the awards ceremony on a big TV screen, what is offered on social media is more than sufficient, with the added luxury of sharing your views with friends or followers.

TV is no longer the “only form” of entertainment or relaxation. People listen to music whenever they like, choosing whatever tools they have on hand. They watch movies or sport clips whenever they feel like it. They are addicted to computer games whether they are children or adults. They don’t have to hurry home or rush their meals in order to watch the Academy Awards live because they know they can watch the full programme whenever it pleases them.

Many believe this is just the beginning. The definition of “book” was among the first to undergo massive changes, and the digital version is threatening to completely consume the traditional one. It looks like visual entertainment, live or rerun, is also facing big turmoil. The decline in viewership of the Oscars only confirming what is around the corner.

It’s very possible that we are simply witnessing the changing definition of TV. In fact, the “multi-screen culture” has existed for many years now. What’s exciting is that while we know more big changes are coming, nobody is quite sure how people 20 years from now will watch the Academy Awards.


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