The ONE thing the Academy Awards MUST learn from the Tony Awards.

There has been a lot said about this year’s Oscars.

On Monday morning alone, I did two interviews asking me my thoughts on everything from the diversity issue and why Broadway is better (but not perfect) at embracing all types of people (see the MSNBC article here) to the “Thank You Crawl” (see the New York Post article here).

And usually after a big event like the Oscars, I do a “Things WE can learn from the Oscars” type post (see this one).

But this time, it’s the Oscars that can learn from us.

And yeah, the diversity issue is the big one . . . just wait until our nominations come out this year.  With shows like Hamilton, The Color Purple, Spring Awakening and On Your Feet! on the boards, that Tony Nominee luncheon certainly ain’t going to look like your grandma’s country club.

So much has been said about the Oscars’ lack of diversity that I wanted to talk about the other glaring problem with the awards telecast.

The damn length.

Clocking in at almost 3:30 is killing the movie industry’s big fête, and I’m not surprised to see the ratings drop to the lowest they’ve been in 8 years (and nope, according to this article, the 8% drop wasn’t because of the Will Smith/Al Sharpton inspired boycott).

Today’s audience, especially that all important to the TV/Film world 18-49 younger demographic, demands more “efficient” entertainment.  So much of their daily intake is in short bursts . . . from blogs instead of articles to tweets instead of blogs to status updates to video clips, etc.  Everything has been distilled down.  I sloppily refer to this as the “YouTube-ization Of The Entertainment Seeker.”

To put up a 3.5 hour show and expect an audience to tune in and stay tuned in?

Prepare ye to lose your audience.

Although I really did appreciate the work that sports Producer David Hill did with the show (it was an inspired move to bring him in to shepard this sucker), the response I got from most of the friends I polled about the show?


You know what boring is code for 97% of the time?  Too long.

It’s time to trim the Academy Awards back and fit it into the 3 hour block that they force the Tony Awards into.  If we can do it, they can too.  Heck, the Oscars should just hire our fantastic long term multi-Emmy Award winning producing team of Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss to take a shot at it one year.  I bet they make them bring that sucker in on budget and on time, like good Producers are supposed to.

I know, I know, people have a lot to say on Awards shows . . . ours included.  But we’ve got to adapt to what the modern audience wants if we want them to keep watching.

And that goes for your shows too, by the way.  And no, I’m not saying that your show has to be short, but if it’s on the long side, well, your degree of difficulty goes way up.

Because if a show, any show, says something, and there’s no audience there to hear it . . . does it actually make a sound?


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  • Frank says:

    Broadways supposed diversity is drastically overstated. The past two years TONY’s were just as white as this years Oscars. Just because Broadway happens to have a diverse season, doesn’t mean that Broadway is doing well in this regard.

    As long as the average demographic is 45, white, wealthy, and female… Broadway will remain mostly an upper class white endeavor.

  • Carvanpool says:

    Learn from the Tony Awards? You mean how to fall into obscurity and irrelevance bit by bit, year by year?

  • Dennis Kulchinsky says:

    First thing Ken is I sent you a suggestion of the thank you crawl after the Tony’s.I don’t think it worked for two reasons.Number one they started the crawl too early,it was over by the time the person got on stage.The second and biggest reason it didn’t work is the winners STILL thanked everyone.The viewers aren’t interested in those you thank,they want to here something more personal.These winners are all performers and yet on the biggest stage they are boring.Speak from the heart and that is what people will remember and want to return year after year.

  • Kenneth Talberth says:

    The longer the show, the more ad revenue. Until ABC realizes the impact of over-long shows’ contribution to declining ratings, there will be no change.

  • Mark Selby says:

    Glenn Weiss directed this year’s Oscars telecast, and it was impeccably done, as is typical of his awards shows. Always impressed by Glenn’s work: original, creative, clean, and respectful. He and Ricky do great work together, but even on his own, this year’s Oscars looked fantastic under Glenn’s watch.

  • bc may says:

    The ONE thing that the Oscars can learn from the Tonys? Please. The Tonys are far and away the best thing on television year after year after year. Slickly formatted, beautifully produced and ever sensitive to the audience which should be the primary concern of any show. I have hosted an Oscar party for years and no one except those in a specific guild is interested in awards like editing and production design. The Tonys have found a way to report those awards without tedious time consumption. Of course the true spirit of much of the American theatre lies in musicals and the the Tonys devotion to the genre is what makes it so appealing. Even Elton John in his remarks on Sunday Morning mentioned how boring the Oscars can get after the first hour. Chris Rock rocked but it is the Oscars who need to emulate the Tonys.

  • Kay says:

    It was not entertaining nor had even the slightest element of class….except for the robots.

  • Andrew says:

    I believe that the Academy requires that the network producing the show include every single award, in order to equitably acknowledge all of the various guilds and services. Categories such as best live action short subject or the various sound design and mixing awards really have no mean g for a mass general audience, yet the Academy requires that they be shown. They may need to change that mindset just like the Tonys and Grammy’s have done and the Emmys do slightly with the guest star awards presented at the technical presentation the week before. Plus directors need to be creative which would probably offend some stalwarts–by doing unusual things like maybe using a stop action screen to stop at the winning film in a particular category (PWC could push the button to get the right flick) . I noticed they cut down on the length of the introductory walks of the presenters, but all those time savers did was make room for an endless number of commercials. Plus they only performed three of the song nominees.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    I’ve been saying for years that the show could be two hours long if they would cut out the categories no one watching at home truly cares about like short documentaries and sound editing (since most sound editing these days is just bullets and car crashes). Yes, these artists have done amazing work and should be honored at the creative arts ceremony held the previous week. Spend 5 minutes showing their speeches. At least ten minutes is wasted hearing the nominees and then the ten mile walk from the very rear of Dolby Theatre. Meanwhile, if the people who win lifetime achievement Oscars or gene Herscholt who might actually have something to say, are lucky, if they’re still alive, to get a three second appearance in the audience like Gena Rowlands this year. The show has to be a S-H-O-W. Comedy. A production number or two. Filmed segments (I’m Tracy Morgan. I’m the Danish Girl. And the five nominated songs. And then there’s the ridiculous two hours of red carpet blabber. Oh, and lose the scroll. God was that awful. Okay, I’ve now gone on longer than the show.

  • Dan Radakovich says:

    I disagree with the statement that the Oscars is too long with complete agreement that it was boring. The medium is film, or the digital equivalent, which is recorded entertainment. Rather than a droning recital of candidates for acting awards, clips can be used to show WHY lighting directors are important, cinematography is key, sound mixers are needed, etc. juxtaposing admitted masterpieces of past winners with current nominees or winners. Clips of actors should show them acting not just registering one emotion or not, Most non insiders have not seen what the voters have presumably viewed in their preparation to decide. It is a promenade of a bunch of stiffs in suits reciting nominees and more suits giving interminable thank you speeches with either a comedian or song-and-dance man in the intervals as host that the young do not recognize. One ray of hope is my young folks liked the playing of the old Oscar winners of music scores in the interludes even though it was not hip-hop or repetitive country…otherwise their audial addictions of choice.

  • Lauren G. says:

    Well put, Ken! I’m in a Marketing Strategy class where we’re working on a project to increase Tony Awards viewership and engagement. We’ve been talking about how the Tonys telecast this year will be incredible in terms of diversity, not only racially, but also in creating a dialogue about disability (i.e.-your revival of Spring Awakening) and continuing the trend of featuring prominent female composers and production staff. Among our marketing recommendations, we also included featuring shorter online content, so this blog post could not be more timely. Just wanted to let you know that you received shoutout in my college paper. 🙂

    That being said, I’m really excited to see the nominees for the Tonys this year and to see what James Corden and the show’s producers do. While I’m occasionally sad about the missing tech awards from the telecast, I agree with the commenters before me that it seems to be a good way to provide the most content for the casual viewer without going overtime.

  • Stuart says:

    Hey Ken,

    Good call on Kirschner & Weiss – Actually, didn’t they win an Oscar for the Neil Patrick Harris hosted TONY Awards? If so, they’re prime candidates, and ones I’d vote for in any year!



  • Lauren says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! The Oscars definitely does have something to learn. While the Tonys are definitely becoming more in obscurity each year (a tragedy, honestly), they still keep things fresh and current. It also doesn’t hurt to have large ensemble musical numbers (I, for one, watch the videos on repeat, since I can’t necessarily fly out to New York from Missouri every time I want to see some Broadway magic).

    Along with this, as you so brilliantly stated, is the issue of diversity. As part of my final for a language arts/research presentation class, I have been researching Broadway and how it has been, is being, and can be used as a catalyst for social change for women and people of color. This season has been spectacular in regards to representation (due in part to shows such as Allegiance), and the opinion of past seasons being as white as the Oscars doesn’t factor in revivals (Ruthie Ann Miles in King and I) or other spectacular shows (like Kinky Boots). Even though the Broadway audiences are mainly white, aren’t those typically the Americans who have harsh opinions against people of color?

    I just wanted to thank you for being so eloquent with talking about diversity and how other industries could benefit from learning from Broadway, and for being a part of the creation of such phenomenal, groundbreaking, social-changing shows.

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