From the outside, the road to the 2019 Oscars has been a wild ride from the short-lived "Popular Movie" Oscar category to the Kevin Hart hosting fiasco. ABC President of Entertainment Karey Burke, who took over for Channing Dungey in November, told journalists at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Tuesday that the drama was initially intimidating but she's now looking forward to an exciting award show.
"I, ironically, have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept the Oscars really in the conversation," she said. "The mystery has been really compelling and people really care. I find it fascinating."
Burke is also confident in the show's current no-hosts strategy, which she thinks will keep the telecast moving and also help the network keep the runtime to under three hours, allowing East Coast viewers to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
"There wasn't messiness beyond the Kevin Hart situation. After that, it was pretty clear that we were going to stay the course. there was an idea that we were just going to just have presenters host the Oscars and we all got on board with that pretty quickly," Burke explained. "The producers, I think, wisely decided to not have the host and just have presenters and let the movies be the stars."
Of course, all award shows, from the Golden Globes and the Grammys to the prestigious Academy Awards, are losing viewers. Even the Super Bowl hit an 11-year low this past Sunday. This could be seen as a red flag for many network executives. Burke is aware of the trend and is looking into it, but she still has faith that the Academy is putting on a show people will want to watch.
"Award shows ratings are down across the board, so it is a challenge, and one that we have to keep very vigilant about, to make sure the show stays relevant and entertaining," she said. "This year I am wildly excited and I think America is [too] about the song category. ... We have [songs from] Kendrick Lamar and songs from Black Panther. We have a phenomenal music show if we just wanted to put that on."
The 2019 Oscars air Sunday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT on ABC.
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