LOS ANGELES • Following weeks of speculation, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has finally confirmed that this year's Oscars ceremony will not have a host.
Ms Karey Burke, entertainment chief at ABC, the network that will carry the show, addressed this development on Tuesday during an event for the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.
"The main goal, which I was told was what the academy promised ABC last year, after a very lengthy telecast, was to keep the show to three hours," Ms Burke said. "So the producers, I think, wisely decided to not have a host and to go back to having the presenters and the movies be the stars, and that will be the best way that we kind of keep the show at a brisk three hours."
The academy announced its intentions to limit the telecast to three hours last August, a few months before Ms Burke was hired.
That change seemed to be a reaction to a continuing decline in viewership as last year's nearly four-hour telecast saw a 19 per cent fall in viewership from the previous year's and hit an all-time low of only 26.5 million viewers. Nonetheless, the ceremony's director went on to win an Emmy in September.
This year's Oscars ceremony seems to have been shaped by public fury more than any other in recent history. Soon after comedian Kevin Hart was named host in early December, several of his old homophobic tweets and jokes resurfaced, sparking widespread outrage.
He issued an apology and eventually backed out, went on Ellen DeGeneres' talk show and said he would reconsider the gig after she vouched for him, but eventually backed out again.
An already undesirable job became even more so.
"There was a messiness behind the Kevin Hart situation," Ms Burke said. "After that, it was pretty clear that we were going to stay the course. There was an idea that we were going to just have presenters host the Oscars and we all got onboard with that idea pretty quickly."
All that said, getting rid of the host will not necessarily prevent controversy. The only other time the Oscars ceremony has been hostless throughout its 91-year history was in 1989, when actress Eileen Bowman dressed as Snow White and actor Rob Lowe, her Prince Charming, made their way through a painful 15-minute opening musical number that left audience members disgusted.
Ms Burke told television critics on Tuesday that this year's ceremony would still include "an exciting opening". The Oscars ceremony will be held on Feb 24.