ABC’s Handling Of Oscars’ Online & Mobile Streaming May Set Precedent For Future “Event TV” Airings

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If you listened to the online chatter about last night’s Oscars telecast, you might come away with the impression that the show tanked. Well, maybe it hit a lot of sour notes in terms of its questionably comedic, and in some cases downright offensive, bits, but in terms of advertising, it has nothing to be ashamed of. ABC sold out its ad inventory at $1.7 million-$1.8 million for a 30-second spot - the highest prices in the last five years. The network is also maximizing the ad spend associated with the Oscars, too, by putting the show online immediately after it aired.

At 6 AM ET, the Oscars became available on ABC.com, in the ABC Player app on iOS, on Hulu and the subscription-based Hulu Plus, as well as on ABC’s VOD service, ABC On Demand.

This is not only the first time the Oscars show has been made available online in its entirety, it’s the first-time any major TV awards show has. So regardless of what you thought of the show’s actual content, be aware at least that we’re looking at a precedent-setting moment here for how TV, streaming and on-demand services may work together in the future for major TV events like this.

The Oscars streams, which started Monday and then end Wednesday, February 27 at midnight ET, are ad-supported with :15 or :30 spots, including some of the advertisers who also shelled out for telecast. Streaming advertisers include Blue Diamond, Diet Coke, Hyundai, JC Penney, Samsung and The University of Phoenix. Samsung was a particularly big Oscars sponsor, taking over seemingly nearly every commercial break with those Zombie Unicorn ads (yes, look it up).

Although the next-day airing is ground-breaking for awards TV, ABC chose not to live stream the Oscars online, which would have been a better fit for a show like this – where it’s about finding out who won right away, just as much as it is seeing the awkward bits fail in a day-after viewing. But the network at least tried to engage the online audience to some extent with real-time video highlights posted to Oscar.com during the broadcast.

It’s a transitional period for broadcasters that are trying to figure out how they want to manage their shifting audiences, who are now watching online in greater numbers, without cannibalizing their TV ad sales. ABC’s next-day decision follows that of CBS’s to live stream the Super Bowl for the second year. Because the number of TV viewers dwarfs that of online viewing for now (in the Super Bowl’s case, 2 million watched NBC’s 2011 online broadcast, versus 100 million on live TV), networks have time to experiment before the impacts to their bottom lines are really felt.