January 9, 2008 / 1:44 AM / 10 years ago

Disney's ABC confident Oscar telecast will air

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - ABC is confident its Academy Awards telecast will air as planned on February 24 despite the Hollywood screenwriters strike and sees no need to offer Oscar advertisers contingencies for lower-than-expected ratings, the network said on Tuesday.

Executives at the Walt Disney Co-owned network denied reports that ABC was reaching out to media buyers to discuss what to do in the event the screenwriters’ strike forces changes in the planned three-hour Oscar broadcast.

“(The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) is fully committed to doing the show, and we have not been out there with contingency plans for advertisers,” an ABC spokeswoman said.

The Writers Guild of America threatened to picket the annual awards ceremony last month raising the possibility that Hollywood’s elite might forego the event in support of striking screenwriters.

The Golden Globe Awards on Monday said they would cancel their own star-studded telecast in the face of an anticipated boycott by presenters and nominees unwilling to cross picket lines.

The usual three-hour-plus Globes ceremony, with winners accepting their awards onstage, will instead be reduced to a one hour press conference this Sunday to be covered live by NBC, a unit of General Electric Co.

Anticipating a ratings decline, NBC on Tuesday was offering cash back to some marketers for the event, which has typically generated roughly $20 million in ad revenue, a person familiar with the arrangements said.

ABC said it does not face a loss of advertising revenues if the Academy Awards are impacted by the strike, now in its 10th week, because of the way the ads are sold.

The network typically sells out ad space for the Oscar telecast months in advance at an expected rate of $1.5 million to $1.65 million per 30-second spot, but does not book the ad revenue until shortly before the air date, according to sources familiar with the network’s advertising.

Moreover, ABC does not guarantee Oscar advertisers a minimum number of impressions per spot, meaning that lower ratings would not result in “make goods” to advertisers, the sources said.

Although ABC is airing the show, the telecast is written, produced and owned by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which would be responsible for seeking a waiver from the WGA to allow the show to go on with union writers.

Academy spokeswoman Leslie Unger declined to say whether producers of the Oscars would seek such a waiver, as was granted to the lower-profile Critics Choice Awards on Monday.

“We are not talking about what options we might pursue now or in the future,” she said. “Right now we’re moving ahead with plans for our show on February 24.”

She added that writing and production work for the show generally does not begin in earnest until after the Oscar nominations are announced, which this year is on January 22.

Editing by Toni Reinhold

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