At the Television Critics Association presentations, ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke confirmed what we already knew to be true: There will be no Oscar host again this year. The clock was ticking — Academy ballots closed January 7 for the nominations, which will be announced on January 13. The Oscar show will go live around the world earlier than ever, on February 9. ABC, which has a long-standing deal with the Academy, will broadcast the show. “Let me confirm it now, together with the Academy,” said Burke, “that there will be no traditional host this year.”
This year’s #Oscars at a glance:
See you Feb. 9th!
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) January 8, 2020
ABC had put considerable pressure on the Academy to make substantive changes after several years of dismal ratings, and 2018 hit an all-time low of 26.54 million and a 6.8 in the adult 18-49 demographic. Some members of the Academy Board of Governors believed that advancing the Oscar date might force some awards-givers to move their dates back. That was magical thinking. Of course that did not happen, and the industry is experiencing a sped-up, congested awards period that will hopefully never repeat again, as voters don’t have time to watch as many films, nor do moviegoers have much chance to give nominees a box office bump n theaters.
Last year the hostless Oscar show ratings actually went up, because the movies in contention were both popular and global, from Marvel’s “Black Panther” to “A Star is Born.” Oscars 2019, which awarded “Green Book” with Best Picture, averaged nearly 30 million viewers, up 11.5 percent from the year before, scoring a 7.7 rating among the 18-49 adult demographic, up 13 percent. The Academy will return to the usual late-February show dates over the next few years.
While it’s quite possible that the Academy couldn’t find an ideal host, again — many hosts have undergone merciless criticism, from Chris Rock to Seth MacFarlane — Burke explained the decision: “We expect to have a more commercial set of nominations. Our goal is to present the most entertaining show possible, and the producers have already put together a plan for what is going to be very entertaining television.”
ABC has nothing to worry about this year, as the movies vying for Oscars include global hits “Joker,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Parasite” and “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” as well as Netflix juggernauts “The Irishman” and “Marriage Story.”
Burke had already indicated that a hostless Oscarcast was fine with ABC. The 2020 ceremony will be produced by rookie Oscar show producers Lynette Howell Taylor (“A Star is Born”) and Stephanie Allain (“Beyond the Lights”). Last year the Academy had lined up Kevin Hart to host but the comedian withdrew under fire for controversial anti-gay tweets. Back in 2011, Brett Ratner also resigned as producer after homophobic remarks, followed by his host Eddie Murphy, who was replaced by Billy Crystal.
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Recent awards shows like Fox’s 2019 Emmy Awards have also gone hostless without incident.