Now that the unasked question of where the Oscars would air for the next 12 years — answer: ABC — has been answered, speculation turns to who will produce and host the year’s most prestigious and highly-rated awards program.
On Wednesday, ABC said that it had concluded an agreement to continue to air the Oscars through 2028, extending for eight years an agreement that was scheduled to expire in 2020. The deal takes ABC through the Oscars’ 100th anniversary in 2028.
“We’re honored to continue our storied and successful partnership with ABC in broadcasting the most-watched live entertainment event of the year,” said Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs in a statement.
For the record, the Academy’s negotiating team was led by Boone Isaacs, Academy CEO Dawn Hudson, Academy Treasurer and former head of 20th Century Fox Film Jim Gianopulos, attorneys Chris Tayback and Ken Ziffren, economic advisor John Sandbrook and Academy in-house counsel Scott Miller.
The Disney/ABC Television Group’s negotiating team consisted of Ben Sherwood, co-chairman, Disney Media Networks and president, Disney/ABC Television Group; Channing Dungey, president of ABC Entertainment; Jana Wingrade, ABC head of business operations; Jennifer Mayo, senior vice president, business affairs; Grant Michaelson, vice president, business affairs; Mark Mazie, chief counsel, media networks; and Stewart Harrison, deputy chief counsel.
Now that that’s settled, speculation immediately turned to who will produce and who will host.
Probably the first question to be answered is whether Reginald Hudlin and David Hill will return as executive producers. The show, which was hosted by Chris Rock, was the culmination of the #OscarsSoWhite controversy that emerged immediately after the nominations of mostly white people were unveiled. Rock performed ably, but like much of television (see: the Olympics) ratings were down, even for a live broadcast that’s not widely available via streaming. Last year’s Oscars were the third least-watched in history, and had the lowest total viewership in eight years, reports The Hollywood Reporter.
While Hudlin and Hill are likely to be back because the Academy prefers hiring producers for multi-year stints, Rock probably won’t return just because the Academy generally doesn’t offer hosts repetitive gigs.
Should Hudlin and Hill not return, however, other options include Bill Condon and Laurence Mark, who produced the show in 2009 with Hugh Jackman as host. Another option is Bill Mechanic and Adam Shankman, producers in 2010, when Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin took the stage. Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who produced the telecast for three consecutive years, appear to be too busy to return, with NBC’s live TV versions of A Few Good Men and Hairspray! on their plates.
An interesting possibility is Dana Brunetti, who’s produced The Social Network and Captain Phillips as well as Netflix’s House of Cards. He’s now the head of production at Relativity Media and has a close relationship with House of Cards star Kevin Spacey, who, with acting, dancing and singing talent, could handle the Oscar spotlight.
Scott Sander, who just won his second Tony for his Broadway production of The Color Purple, has strong supporters, including Oprah Winfrey, Harvey Weinstein, Quincy Jones and Jennifer Hudson. Sander produced Queen Latifah’s Grammy-nominated jazz album in 2005, and he could potentially bring the multi-talented actress and singer along as host.
Other host options said to be in the mix include Louis CK, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, and Kevin Hart.
If it were solely up to ABC, which it isn’t, the job would likely go to the network’s late-night host, Jimmy Kimmel.
The 89th annual Academy Awards will be broadcast live from the Dolby Theater at Hollywood and Highland on Sunday, Feb. 26 on ABC.
READ MORE: The Hollywood Reporter
[Image courtesy of Adweek]