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Awards season buzz has a powerful impact on viewer interest in films, both at the box office and in the home. This year, studios will need to adapt their strategy to profit from this effect, as the Oscars—Hollywood’s biggest night—are being broadcast almost a month earlier than usual.

Why does this matter for on-demand planning?

Let’s break it down: The average time between theatrical and VOD release is about three months. Oscars timing usually aligns pretty well with award-contender films that want to capitalize on the theatrical window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, before releasing on-demand by late February – just in time for the Oscars telecast late February or early March.

This timing is important. Titles with awards buzz get a boost in on-demand transactions, but only within a certain window. The further a VOD release date is from the award ceremony, the lower the organic impact of the award buzz.

Cadent found that when a film is released on-demand the month of the award show rather than the month before, the ROAS dropped by 16%. That stat continues to plummet, dropping by 40% the month after the award show and 56% two months after.

We also looked at the correlation between studio investment and revenue. In the month before and the month of the award show (with the award show at the end of the month), studios saw strong returns with additional investment. In the month after the award show, however, that relationship weakens substantially. This shows that many studios probably underspent, banking on award show buzz that had petered out.

In short, this means that titles with awards buzz that are released on-demand after the award show need more support and a higher ad spend.

A well-planned VOD release is especially important for smaller independent films that don’t carry resounding box office success or wide audience buzz. (Think “The Favourite” versus “A Star Is Born”.)

Leading up to the award shows, these small films have a hearty buzz that can make up for low awareness coming out of a less successful theatrical window. This buzz can be harnessed for strong returns and performance surpassing similar low-awareness tiles without this buzz. Once the awards are handed out, however, these smaller films tend to fade into the background, especially if they don’t win any big-name trophies.

With this year’s Oscars ceremony falling at the beginning of February, there is a much smaller window in which a title, especially a smaller one, can ride the award season wave.

Let’s walk through an example: a film is released on Christmas Day and is nominated for an Academy Award. The film is not a wide-release box office hit, but is critically acclaimed and is getting a lot of awards buzz. Based on the average release schedule, it won’t be available on-demand until the end of February, two to three weeks after the Oscars ceremony. Based on Cadent’s findings, this film would see a 16-40% drop in return on ad spend. It would need a much larger spend to make up for the lapsed award show awareness.

Heading into fall and winter, there are some best practices to make the most of the short awards season. First, let the big budget box office hits run their own course. These films should have enough awareness and buzz without an award-show boost to perform well on-demand. Releasing them based on ideal holiday theatrical timing and adapting revenue goals based on their theatrical success is a smart strategy.  

Then, focus attention on smaller releases that will garner critical acclaim and nominations. Consider earlier releases for these titles, to time their on-demand release in January. This positions the titles that can benefit from awards buzz the most during the time when they can benefit from awards buzz the most. 

To get a better grasp on the impact the earlier Oscars ceremony could have on in-home entertainment and the movie-rental window, get in touch with us.

Read more about the variables that affect in-home rental revenue.