ABC, Motion Picture Academy Offer Backstage View of Oscars for a Fee

Article excerpt

LOS ANGELES -- Think of it is as "Oscars After Dark."

In a move that combines elements of society's obsession over celebrities with the Internet's enabling of webcam voyeurism, viewers of the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony for the first time will get the kind of access -- for a price -- previously reserved for tuxedoed and bejeweled members of the Hollywood elite.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and broadcast network ABC are unhooking the velvet rope on the Oscar.com website to provide live video streams of usually hidden aspects of Oscar night on Feb. 27, including celebrities mingling at a lobby bar, hair and makeup artists applying a final gloss to presenters before they take the stage, and awards-winners gliding into the post- ceremony celebration, the Governors Ball.

It's an effort by the academy to hold the attention of a nation of dedicated multi-taskers, three-quarters of whom are either online, yakking on phones or sending text messages while watching television, according to a new survey from Deloitte's media and entertainment group.

"We all know that more and more people who are watching TV are also engaging with some other devices -- whether a computer or an iPad or a smart phone," said Ric Robertson, the motion picture academy's executive administrator. "So, what can we serve up to them to keep them engaged with the telecast, to provide a complementary experience?"

This second-screen experience is not just a bid to retain younger, more tech-savvy viewers. It's also an experiment by the producers to see if they can wring more money out of viewers by getting them to pay a fee for more exclusive online content.

The academy and ABC will charge $4.99 for the "All Access" feature, which provides live feeds from 28 cameras positioned on the red carpet, inside the Kodak Theatre and backstage, as well as at the ball.

Asked whether Hollywood stars would balk at the webcam scrutiny, Robertson said it's no different from the photographers who swarm the event, capturing candid moments. …