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Posted at 4:41 PM ET, 02/24/2011

Oscars renewed through 2020; Emmys mash miniseries w/ movies

By Lisa de Moraes

James Franco and Anne Hathaway will host the Oscars, which just got renewed to stay on ABC until 2020. (Reuters)

On the eve of Sunday's Oscarcast, ABC and the motion picture academy announced the network had locked exclusive broadcast rights to the trophy show through 2020.

ABC's current contract for the Oscars was set to run out in 2014. The new deal with the academy insures the Mother of all Trophy Shows will play on ABC for 45 consecutive years.

That record-book entry will cost ABC about $50 million a year, trade paper Variety has reported.

On the plus side: the Academy Awards is the country's most watched non-sports program; last year's trophy show clocked an average of more than 41 million viewers.

The 83rd annual Academy Awards, which airs live on Sunday, will be the 36th consecutive Oscarcast broadcast by ABC.

"ABC is absolutely the very best place for the Academy Awards, a television event that is beloved and watched by millions of movie lovers all over the world," academy president Tom Sherak said modestly on Thursday.

On a smaller scale, the television academy has found a way to streamline its pudgy Primetime Emmy Awards show and placate broadcasters, as it's in talks with those broadcasters about a new deal in which they would continue to take turns broadcasting that trophy show.

Starting with the 2011 trophy show in September, the races for best miniseries and best made-for-TV movie will be combined.

The new, merged category will have six nominees, instead of the usual five.

ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, which have taken turns airing the trophy show for many years, have been virtually out of the movie and miniseries businesses for years.

Those so-called longform races are now dominated by public broadcasting, basic cable networks and, mostly, pay cabler HBO. Last year's televised Emmy ceremony included eight movie and miniseries categories. ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox would rather not pay a license fee to the TV academy for the privilege of airing eight big wet kisses to HBO.

More importantly, those broadcasters argue, many American viewers have never seen the nominated longform programs and therefore are not invested in the outcomes of those categories, which can't be good for Emmy ratings.

That's usually when someone from a cable network points out that the brighter stars in the Hollywood firmament who actually show up at the televised Emmy ceremony, and who are probably good for the show's ratings, are usually people nominated for cable's nominated longform projects.

"Pacific" (Courtesy of HBO)

Last year, for example Tom Hanks, executive producer of HBO's miniseries "The Pacific," and Al Pacino, star of HBO's TV movie "You Don't Know Jack," both showed up and gave acceptance speeches.

The move announced Thursday is more symbolic than sweeping change. The merged categories will have six nominees, instead of the five apiece they might have had as separate categories. But last year there were only two nominees for best miniseries: HBO's "The Pacific" and PBS's "Return to Cranford."

In fact, it's that lack of miniseries nominations at last fall's Emmy awards, and the one previous, that did in the category. It appears the academy has a longstanding rule allowing its board to take a look at any category that can't scrape together five nominees for two successive years. The board has the option to

a) delete that category
b) consolidate it with another category,
c) leave well enough alone.

Last year's race for best made-for-TV movie included PBS's "Endgame, Lifetime's "Georgia O'Keeffe, History's "Moonshot," and HBO's "The Special Relationship," HBO's "Temple Grandin," and HBO's "You Don't Know Jack."

Full disclosure: all the other miniseries and TV movie derbies have been merged for several years - into categories such as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie, Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie, blah, blah, blah.

By Lisa de Moraes  | February 24, 2011; 4:41 PM ET
Categories:  TV News  
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