The Academy is getting into streaming – and that could be good news

Awards screeners will be available to view online, drastically changing the physics of voting.


Charles Bramesco


It’s a year of change on multiple fronts for the Academy Awards, from the renaming of Foreign Film as International Film to the ongoing Netflix question. But today, a more technical alteration to Oscar protocol could have far-reaching and outward-facing consequences down the line.

The Hollywood Reporter has the story that The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will transition away from the stacks upon stacks of physical DVD screeners annually mailed to members of the assorted voting bodies, instead taking the screener-review process online. A state-of-the-art new web site will allow AMPAS voters to check out eligible films at their own leisure in the comfort of their own homes.

An earlier version of the web site offered this option, albeit with a much smaller library of titles and a more difficult-to-use interface. The new version will offer a more comprehensive listing – Netflix, Sony, Focus, and others have already begun to e-peddle their e-wares – and a less buggy user experience.

This may sound like Hollywood minutiae, but it could have a perceptible effect on which sorts of movies get seen and nominated. It’s no secret that AMPAS’ voting bloc is made up primarily of older sorts, who generally prefer in-person theatrical screenings to popping a DVD in the player.

Expecting the less tech-friendly to figure out how to log in and use a web site seems likely to cut down on viewership for online-only features. Though at the same time, having an instant treasure trove of available viewing may lead to heightened exposure among those younger and more computer-savvy.

Every year, the Oscars announce an intention to get leaner and younger, and this represents a significant step in that very direction. But the real potential of the switch-up comes from the potential for the Academy to monitor who’s watched what. I would love nothing more than a post-mortem data-based report revealing what percentage of the voting total actually took the time to watch each selection – inevitably telling stuff.

Published 31 Oct 2019

Tags: Academy Awards Oscars

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