Already a member? Log In

The Future of Awards Shows, Part 2: How to Fix What’s Broken

89th Annual Academy Awards
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
September 19, 2021

In June, a group of Disney television executives summoned the leaders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences for a come-to-Jesus meeting. Academy C.E.O. Dawn Hudson and president David Rubin were on the Zoom, as was Dana Walden, Disney Television’s chairman of entertainment, ABC’s Craig Erwich and Rob Mills, and about 10 others either involved in the annual Oscars telecast or responsible for the revenue it generates. The meeting, which I’m revealing here, was certainly unusual, but it didn’t devolve into a blame game or a shouting match; it wasn’t even particularly tense, says one person who was there. Instead, and perhaps for the first time, everyone was on the same page: It’s now or never. If we don’t fix this show, it will cease to exist

I don’t need to tell you that the Oscars, once the most-viewed entertainment program and the biggest promotional platform for a media product outside of the Super Bowl, is in big trouble. You and I know it; Walden and Hudson know it; stop a dude on the street in Iowa and he probably knows it. Awards shows, in general, and the Oscars, in particular, seem increasingly like an outdated television format, destined to take its place in obscurity with soaps and Westerns.