ABC confirms host-free Oscars, says ‘mystery’ has stoked interest

The Oscars will indeed be hostless, ABC finally confirmed on Tuesday. The cloud of uncertainty that has hovered over the ceremony has actually been good for the show because it’s kept it in the public conversation, new ABC Entertainment president Karey Burke said.

NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 25: Overview of Oscar statues on display at “Meet the Oscars” at the Time Warner Center on February 25, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images)

Burke discussed the telecast fleetingly at the TV Critics Association tour, stressing that a top priority was to hold the ceremony to a “brisk” three hours. In the past, the Academy Awards have often run more than 3 and a half hours, which has been perceived to be a drag on ratings.

Efforts to streamline the show, however, have resulted in hand-wringing among some film fans and within the industry, where those representing below-the-line categories (like sound and production design) have objected to the prospect of certain awards being presented during commercial breaks to speed up the presentation.

Burke did note that all the Oscar-nominated songs will be performed. The Academy has already tweeted that Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga will sing “Shallow,” the nominee from “A Star is Born.”

Despite the messiness surrounding Kevin Hart’s aborted role as Oscar host — and the Academy staying mum about its plans — Burke appeared to invoke a glass-half-full philosophy, saying “the mystery” surrounding this year’s ceremony “has been compelling,” while demonstrating that viewers remain invested in the awards.

For the first time, ABC will use the Oscars to preview a new series, “Whiskey Cavalier,” an action-drama starring “Scandal’s” Scott Foley that will air after local newscasts.

Oscar ratings dropped sharply last year, but the hope is that popular nominees like “Black Panther” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” will boost tune-in. The awards will air February 24 on ABC.

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