E! Entertainment Television was poised to go on with its Academy Awards coverage last night (March 23), even if the traditional red-carpet celebrity interview scene did not.
At press time, E! maintained that its Oscar coverage would run as originally planned: 10 hours of pre- and post-ceremony festivities. That was predicated on the resolve that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences would stage its annual event on schedule, barring developments in the war with Iraq over the weekend.
While the Oscar ceremony could be considered frivolous during a time of war, E!'s decision to commit to coverage shouldn't come as a surprise. Its extensive coverage of the hoopla that precedes and follows the ceremony is a hallmark of the network, and its largest annual ratings producer.
E!'s two-hour pre-show segment — usually titled Live from the Red Carpet, with perennial commentators Joan and Melissa Rivers — averaged a 3.6 household rating last year, drawing more than 3.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The six-hour Countdown
that preceded it earned a 0.9 rating and more than 868,000 viewers.
The two-hour post show coverage averaged a 0.5 rating and about 517,000 viewers.
Developments in Iraq aside, the Academy's decision early last week to cancel the red-carpet area where nominees and other Hollywood stars meet and greet the media will impact the tone of E!'s coverage, and no doubt its ratings.
"The show goes on; we'll be there," promised Mark Sonnenberg, E!'s executive vice president of entertainment.
The network planned to have cameras placed in other locations near the Kodak Theater in downtown Los Angeles, the ceremony's site, in order to catch celebrities. "Whatever happens, Joan and Melissa will have a lot to talk about beyond the celebrities and what they're wearing," added Gary Snegaroff, original production vice president at E! "Who's going to win, who will show up at parties later and more. Our content could change right up to show time."
Coverage producers had lined up a variety of pre-taped segments in the event the Academy further curtailed pre-show media access to the actors. Subject matter in those segments included the Oscars' relationship with war movies over its 75-year history, and profiles of nominees.
At press time, E! officials said no advertisers had pulled their spots from the expansive coverage, which was scheduled to start at noon EST with the six-hour Countdown
segment, anchored by E! News Daily
The Joan and Melissa Rivers were scheduled to come on at 6 p.m. for the two-hour block, before ABC's Oscar broadcast. The pair was then set for the two-hour wrap-up at midnight.