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ABC Has High Hopes for Oscars and Special ‘Abbott Elementary’ Episode

Amid declining linear ratings across the board, ABC is optimistic about Sunday night’s Oscars, which will be followed by a special episode of Emmy-winning hit “Abbott Elementary” right after the ceremony.

“I think the narrative is a bit overblown,” ABC SVP of content strategy and scheduling Ari Goldman told TheWrap on the topic of dwindling awards show ratings. “If you look at the relative strength of the marquee award shows considering landscape trends, they’re as strong as ever in terms of their impact with the available audience watching television.”

As of Wednesday, Disney sold out of ad inventory for the 96th Oscars telecast, and while Disney didn’t specify exactly how much advertisers spent in total, the rate for a 30-second spot ranges from $1.7 million and $2.2 million.

The 96th Academy Awards closes out the cadre of 2024 awards shows, which have been split when it comes to ratings growth and loss. Viewership for the Golden Globes was up a whopping 50% from last year, and Grammys ratings saw a 34% uptick from the previous ceremony, but the Emmys hit a record ratings low and saw a 27% decline in viewership.

“For me, event live television has felt like it’s on the upswing,” Oscars showrunner and EP Raj Kapoor told TheWrap in a pre-show interview. “Super Bowl ratings were up, Grammys ratings were up, Golden Globes were up — I feel like people want to be together again, and they want to enjoy that immediate reaction to what is happening live.”

Kapoor’s strategy to bring in audiences beyond loyal awards show viewers relies on connection, noting “one of our goals is giving people a show that they care about.”

In addition to spotlighting the year’s box office blockbusters — including a “healthy dose” of “Barbenheimer” — as well as the other Best Picture nominees, Kapoor and executive producers Katy Mullan and Molly McNearney said the show will feature plenty of reunions, cameos and “night-of surprises.”

The 96th annual ceremony will also start an hour earlier than usual at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT for the first time ever — a move Kapoor notes will be “beneficial” given audience’s shifting lifestyles.

“People have changed their viewing habits, their dining habits — people go to bed a little earlier, and they wake up a little earlier. Maybe that was a product of COVID, but people’s lifestyles have changed a little bit.” Kapoor said. “It’s a late night if you’re on the East Coast, and we would love all of those people to stay with us till the end and know who wins Best Picture.”

Starting an hour earlier gave the network space in the Sunday night lineup to include a special episode of “Abbott Elementary” immediately following the ceremony, marking the first time ABC employs an Oscars lead-in for a scripted entertainment show. Last year, a special episode of “American Idol” aired following the 95th annual Oscars, which brought in 3.34 million viewers, down from the season average of 5.35 million viewers.

The strategy might function to mimic the massive lead-in from live sports events, including the new CBS drama “Tracker,” which debuted to an audience of 18.4 million viewers when airing directly following the Super Bowl.

“What a great spotlight for the show — a show that a lot of Oscars viewers who are very pop culture and awards savvy have almost certainly heard about but maybe haven’t yet sampled,” Goldman said. “We think it’s a great way to tuck in that viewer into ‘Abbott’ and make an even bigger event out of the night.”

The delayed third season of “Abbott Elementary” debuted to its biggest multiplatform premiere viewership the show has ever seen, which featured appearances from Eagles players Jalen Hurts, Jason Kelce and Brandon Graham, and its post-Oscars episode has some surprises in store as well.

Last year’s Oscars scored 18.8 million viewers on ABC, marking a 13% uptick in viewership from the 2022 ceremony that brought in 16.7 million viewers, according to live plus same-day Nielsen figures. Likewise, the 2023 ceremony averaged a 4.0 rating in the key broadcast demographic among adults 18-49, up 5.3% over last year.

While ABC is expecting strong linear viewership from the night’s Oscars and subsequent “Abbott Elementary” telecast, the network also expects growth across platforms, including streaming viewership on Hulu, an individual with knowledge told TheWrap. The Oscars, as well as the new episode of “Abbott Elementary,” will be available to stream the next day on Hulu.

“We all feel super lucky that we’re producing the Oscars in the year with so many popular movies. ‘Barbenheimer’ was a huge deal at the box office, and going to the cinema is an event again,” Mullan said. “We’re finding ways to celebrate all the Best Picture [nominees], as well as all the best songs.”

The post ABC Has High Hopes for Oscars and Special ‘Abbott Elementary’ Episode appeared first on TheWrap.