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Social Media Boosts Oscars

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The Oscars are expected to draw many more viewers this Sunday than the 36 million who tuned into the show last year.

TV analysts are counting on the event to keep up the ratings jumps we've seen from the Grammys and Golden Globes to the record-breaking Superbowl and Olympics.

It's no coincidence: broadcasters are heavily promoting annual events to make them 'Must See TV.’

The media giants realize that these live events are a rare occasion to get viewers to sit tight through commercials rather than zipping through on TiVo.

This year the Academy and ABC (as well as the broadcasters of all the other big events) seem to finally get the power of social media- they're putting more information online to feed Facebook and Twitter conversations and build the audience for the show.

People have always chattered online about the big event, going back to the days of AOL chat rooms, but this marks the first year the Academy is embracing social media.

It started with live streaming the nominations online; the Academy has revamped Oscar.com, and created a dynamic Facebook pageand YouTube channel. It's the free IPhone Appthat really seems to "get it." It allows users to vote on each category, watch video clips and share their picks and favorite pictures with friends via Facebook and Twitter.

The Academy is also tweaking the format of the show itself to grow its audience.

It doubled the number of best picture nominees from five to ten; so far more people have seen the films features in these awards than in recent years. The fact that "Avatar"-on track to be the biggest movie ever- is a front-runner for "Best Picture," should really help reach a mass audience. The show cast Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin as co-hosts, rather than having just one host, which draws on the stars mass appeal.

How many people will watch? I'm guessing at least 40 million. Advertisers seem to agree. The price of a thirty second spot for the show this year runs around $1.45 million, up from $1.2 million, good news for ABC .

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