By Jon Dougherty

As the Academy Awards program scheduled for Sunday won’t have a designated host for the first time since 1989, the over-politicization of the Oscars — once Hollywood’s biggest night — has led to plummeting ratings which has advertisers deeply concerned.

In fact, they are so spooked, as is the network, that ABC execs have decided to do something previously unheard of: Guarantee ratings for advertisers.

Deadline Hollywood reports:

The Academy Awards looks to be going without a designated host on Sunday for the first time since 1989, but broadcaster ABC had to break some new ground this year in the era of plummeting ratings.

Even before the host and category chaos that have hobbled the ceremony in recent weeks, the Disney-owned network found itself forced to guarantee a ratings threshold to keep the deepest-pocketed buyers happy.

“We are right on the edge of that danger zone — not close, but on it — and that makes advertisers very nervous,” one source told the entertainment news site.

Specifically, ABC made guarantees to long-term, high-dollar advertisers such as car companies, beer companies, and consumer technology companies.

In the age of POTUS Donald Trump, Hollywood’s perpetually triggered notables have turned the Oscars into a Left-wing hate fest that has driven off viewers, leading to double-digit declines since 2017. Last year, the awards show fell to a new all-time low with the 90th Oscars pulling in just 26.5 million viewers and a weakened 6.8/24 among adults in the highly-prized 18-49 range.

“It’s very unlikely that things will fall so radically this year that they’ll drop beneath those thresholds, but the fact is that there finally had to be such guarantees was a wake-up call to everyone,” one industry exec told Deadline Hollywood commenting on the standards ABC agreed to for the habitually long-running Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences show.

The news site added that the network “emphatically rejected the notion that it has put any kind of numbers forward, even a conservative threshold.”

“The Oscars is one of the most highly sought-out live events in the industry. Historically, we have never guaranteed Oscars, and this year is no different,” Doug Hochstadt, Revenue and Yield Management for Disney Advertising Sales, said in a statement.

Even though ABC pays north of $85 million every year for the Oscars, the network only has an advisory role. Decisions regarding show content — and, notably, length — are all made by the Academy. That includes a decision this year not to air some categories live.

ABC did manage to sell out its inventory for this year’s 91st showing of the awards show. And ABC execs believe the massive politicization has actually been a net gain for the Oscars.

Still, there are warning signs on the horizon:

Jeff Greenfield, co-founder and COO at ad tracker C3 Metrics, believes bean counters are looking at the show the wrong way if they judge investments purely on ROI for a given spot on the linear broadcast.

“These not a one-screen type of thing,” he said. “Consumers are not stuck on the TV screen. They are always looking across digital and that gives you so many more opportunities.”

Despite the relentlessly downbeat media narrative around the show, he said, “People are still going to tune in, whether it’s on TV or on their phones.”

Kevin Krim, CEO of EDO, a TV measurement and analytics company founded by Daniel Nadler and Edward Norton, says the company found that viewers of ads during last year’s ceremony were 77% more likely to engage online with an advertiser compared with those who saw an equivalent ad during ABC’s regular primetime shows.

“The ratings have been trending downward, but engagement is still high,” he told Deadline in an interview.

Added Greenfield of C3, “At the end of the day, these are still the Oscars.”

Until they aren’t anymore.

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