RATINGS UP, SEARCHES DOWN: Ratings were up significantly for Sunday night’s telecast of the 81st Annual Academy Awards over last year, which represented an all-time ratings low. According to preliminary estimates from Nielsen, the show on ABC (which reportedly slashed the cost of commercial airtime, although that didn’t stop such longtime advertisers as L’Oréal from dropping out) had an average of 36.3 million viewers, versus the 32 million who watched the Oscars last year. But that didn’t come close to the record set in 1998, when more than 55 million people tuned in, thanks to “Titanic.”
And either they were all watching on TV or were turned off by fewer A-list stars walking the red carpet this year, but less people sought the stars out online. The most popular Google searches after the Oscar broadcast were dominated by lesser-known movies and one award-winning deceased actor, according to Google Trends, which tracks the 100 fastest-rising search terms in a given hour. Heath Ledger, who earned a posthumous Oscar for best supporting actor for his role as the Joker in “The Dark Knight,” was the subject of four of the top 20 Google searches Sunday night around 10 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Other top searches included Jerry Lewis, who was awarded a special Oscar for his longtime charitable efforts; foreign films “Spielzeugland” and “Le Maison en Petit Cubes,” which won for best live action and best animated short films, respectively, and the 39-minute “Smile Pinki,” which won best documentary short. Not even the hottest couple in Hollywood, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, could break the top 20 fastest-rising search terms during the particular time — however, “Angelina Jolie’s father” did nab the 34th fastest-growing phrase during the period. That would be Joe Buck himself, Jon Voight. — Amy Wicks and Stephanie D. Smith
This story first appeared in the February 24, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
LEAVING THE TOP: News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch was dealt a blow Monday when longtime lieutenant Peter Chernin, who since 1996 has been president and chief operating officer of News Corp. responsible for the Fox television and movie divisions, said he would leave the company in June when his contract expires. Speculation had been growing for weeks that Chernin, well respected both inside and outside News Corp., would be leaving; several news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times, reported his departure before a company statement was issued. “Peter is a valued colleague and a trusted friend. There are few executives, at any company that combine his maturity, his experience, and his skills as a communicator and leader — I will miss him,” said Murdoch of Chernin. The Fox divisions will report to Murdoch once Chernin exits. Chernin will, among other things, launch a Fox-based production company later this year. — S.D.S.
PUTTING ON A HAPPY FACE: The last few years haven’t been easy for the shelter category — just ask Domino — but the Reader’s Digest Association believes, naturally, that its new entry into the genre is unlike anything else on newsstands and will thrive, even in this shaky advertising environment. Editor in chief Neil Wertheimer, who has been with the company for seven years, said Fresh Home, a magazine aimed at women and young couples ages 25 to 45, provides tips on light home-improvement projects, frugal buying solutions and ways to make the home uniquely personal, as opposed to following a trend. “So many shelter titles focus on other people’s style,” said Wertheimer. “We are helping them find their own style.”
The 10-person staff put the magazine together in approximately four months, and some content is repurposed from Handyman, an Australian shelter magazine. Wertheimer intends to use more from that title when appropriate, since there is no overlap in readership. “We are frugal here,” he noted. “We are good at doing things on a tight budget. We don’t have overhead; we aren’t invested in, say, a large photography studio.” The magazine will be published quarterly, with a national newsstand circulation of 300,000 and a cover price of $4.99.
The 136-page premier issue has 33 ad pages from companies such as Ikea, Miele, Goodyear and Subaru. “Everyone that we’ve heard from said they’ve been waiting a long time for something like this — a hands-on, unisex magazine for a younger audience,” he added. “And they like the positive energy. Other magazines lacked the smiling faces. We are about happy living. We aren’t just going to provide a shopper’s guide.” — A.W.