The day after the Oscars a few years ago, Los Angeles Times columnist Patrick Goldstein wrote a searing column in the Times about the need for the Oscar telecast to get a reality check. He wrote that it’s now painfully obvious that the Oscars need a face-lift. Ratings are down dramatically, and younger viewers are leaving in droves – 25% down from last year. But as I read his post, I couldn’t help think of comparing his criticism to religious media, which needs to wake up from a similar dream. The truth is, many of Goldstein’s complaints about the Oscars really parallel religious media.
• As I said before, it’s losing young people in droves.
• It’s a holdover from the age of “appointment television.” Does anyone watch TV live anymore? I pretty much watch TV based on my TIVO. On a massive scale, the only thing people still see regularly on schedule is the Super Bowl, because it’s a live, competitive event, it showcases state of the art graphics and production values, and with the halftime show, boasts a show within a show – not to mention the commercials (which brings a pretty massive audience just for that). Yes, there are still folks without digital media recorders who watch it live, but if you want to reach younger viewers, “time shifting” is the new theme.
• Something that I’ve been preaching for years is length. The Oscar telecast is a 3 hour show. In religious media, with a sermon based program, I doubt many watch for more than 15 minutes. Remember, no one watches TV anymore. Yes, they might say they are, but in truth, they have the set turned on while they are eating dinner, getting dressed, or answering email. If the success of your program is based on them getting intensively involved, forget it.
• Goldstein makes the point that the Oscars should be streamed online. The MTV awards does a live streaming event, with multiple hosts and backstage views to give online fans a glimpse of the behind the scenes action. It opens up the program and gives online viewers something different than what’s happening on TV.
• He also says to cut the show length by doing more technical awards in the afternoon at a different ceremony. They do that now, but only on a limited basis. The major audience wants to just see the stars anyway, so shifting more awards to the afternoon will help keep the event moving.
• A more casual atmosphere is needed. I’ve noted before that when the 9/11 Committee in NYC had their anniversary event a few years ago, it was decided that there wouldn’t be a formal speaker. The thought was that today’s culture has grown so casual, the presence of a formal speech seems inauthentic and lacks feeling or emotion. Right or wrong, it’s worth noting.
• Today’s audience loves being inside the bubble. Want great examples? Watch ESPN or Fox Sports. Those guys put a mike on coaches and cameras in the locker room, and let us eavesdrop. Some of the most exciting stuff on TV these days is done by the sports guys. Check them out and see how you could adapt some of those ideas to your program concept.
Read the article by Goldstein in the Times. He’s got a great point, and it’s worth comparing to what we see on religious radio and TV. As he says about the Oscars, the camera placement and program structure hasn’t changed much since the Carol Burnett Show – except Carol Burnett was actually funny. And like Goldstein points out about the Oscars, religious media doesn’t need a little Botox, it needs serious plastic surgery.