Alphabet wins Oscar to 2014

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has renewed its Oscarcast deal with ABC through 2014 — with a key proviso happily omitted.

ABC did not include a stipulation that the show include a tape delay. Last year, in the wake of the Janet Jackson-Super Bowl brouhaha, ABC instituted a seven-second delay on the Oscarcast for the first time ever. While the Acad fretted, execs there accepted the fact that the decision ultimately lay in the hands of the web.

Under the new pact, ABC has the option of including a delay, but both sides seem pleased with the fact that the delay is not mandated.

New pact reps an addition of six years to the existing contract, which was set to expire in 2008. By 2014, the Alphabet will have carried 38 consecutive Oscarcasts and 56 of the 61 ever televised.

International broadcast rights are governed by a separate deal with Buena Vista Intl. and will run until 2010.

At the 24th annual nominees luncheon Monday, Oscarcast producer also announced an innovation in the presentation of winners at this year’s Feb. 27 ceremony.

In a move designed to get the faces of all nominees — not just actors — on camera, award categories will be divided into three groups.

Nominees in Group A categories will appear onstage as their names are read, with the winner stepping forward after the envelope is opened.

Group B nominees will stay in their seats, and the presenter will come to them. Those in Group C will follow the traditional format.

In the past, all five candidates in the acting categories had a camera on them to register their reactions. But contenders in other categories, ranging from writing to technical categories (which often include multiple nominees per film) were often unseen unless they won. Producer Gil Cates’ goal is to make sure everyone gets camera time.

A record 113 nominees attended the 24th annual luncheon at the Beverly Hilton, including 16 of the 19 acting nominees, plus honorary award recipients Roger Mayer and Takuo Miyagishima. After the traditional “class photo” of all the contenders, each came to the stage to receive a nomination certificate and a sweatshirt. The group then sang to Chris Rock, who was celebrating his birthday on Monday.

ABC’s live telecast of the 77th annual Academy Awards will air at 5 p.m. PT Feb. 27 from the Kodak Theater in Hollywood.

(Timothy M. Gray contributed to this report.)

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