Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Baseball, Oscars, and apple pie.

          The ratings are in, and 39 million people watched the Academy Awards on Sunday night. It was a wonderfully nostalgic show, celebrating the joys of watching great entertainment on the big screen.

           Movie attendance at theaters is down, and more and more people are watching films on their computers and mobile phones. But the Oscars made us forget that for a couple of hours, as "The Artist" was rewarded as the best film. Appropriately. It does a wonderful job of demonstrating the artistry of the movies.

           Another news item caught my attention. The Los Angeles Dodgers are for sale and bids exceed 1.2 billion dollars. That's right, billion.

          What do the Oscars and the Dodgers have in common? At a time when almost 20% of TV shows are being Tivoed, for viewing later, often without commercials, there are exceptions. Special events, sports, and news. People want to see them while they're happening, not later. Which makes them more valuable to advertisers.

          Generally speaking, events like the Oscars aren't sold to advertisers on the basis of ratings. But good ratings do make next year's program easier to sell, and being able to reach 39 million viewers at a crack is very appealing.

          As I was watching the Oscars on Sunday, I was struck by how much more enjoyable the commercials seemed than on the Super Bowl. I think there are a couple of reasons for that.

          First, my expectations were probably lower. For the Super Bowl there's so much hype about the commercials. There's competition to do the best job, advance peeks get shown on YouTube, and some companies do a lot of commercials and pre-test them to get the winner as their Super Bowl pick. We have come to expect every spot to be exceptional. On the Oscars, we don't. Commercials are what they normally are --- interruptions. And the interruptions this year were very good.

        Second, I think, is the mood of the viewer. During the Super Bowl, we're tense. Competitive. On edge. We may have favorites on the Oscars, but we don't grind our teeth if they drop something. We're in the mood to be entertained, and pretty mellow. That's a better frame of mind. We're more receptive to being sold stuff.

        Even though we may be texting like crazy, or checking out friends' reactions on Facebook or Twitter, there's something comforting about settling in for a while in front of the TV. It's sort of "old shoe", like some of Billy Crystal's jokes.


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