Oscars: Research Predicts Christian Bale Win; 12% Ratings Rise (Exclusive)

2:59 PM PST 02/24/2011 by Paul Bond
JoJo Whilden/Paramount
The Fighter

Zeta Interactive, which mined 200 million pieces of Oscars-related online content, also predicts that the audience for Sunday's telecast could rise 12% over last year.

Listen up Academy, the Internet is conveying some good news: The audience for the Oscar telecast could rise 12% this year.

And for those of you still in need of help on your office Oscar pool, The Social Network will eke out a victory over The King's Speech but the latter's Tom Hooper will best the former's David Fincher and take home the Oscar for best director.

All these predictions, though, are predicated on the assumption that moviegoers who spend some of their free time blogging their opinions about the films they have seen actually know what they're talking about.

The data comes from Zeta Interactive, which mines 200 million online posts, message-board comments, Internet videos, etc., seeking what they call "tonal buzz" about one topic or another. In this case it's the 83rd Academy Awards.

"We scrape the content of posts from people who are passionate about their moviegoing experience," Zeta CEO Al DiGuido said.

Zeta says that 91% of the tonal buzz surrounding Sunday's event is positive, which is 12% higher than last year at this time. If the online buzz translates into viewership, 46.7 million Americans will tune in, compared with 41.7 million last year. That would make it Oscar's largest audience since the 70th Academy Awards telecast 13 years ago, when Billy Crystal hosted for the umpteenth time and Titanic won best picture.

Not only is the buzz better this time around, but there's also 14% more posts about the occasion than there was a year ago.

According to Zeta, Internet bloggers are suggesting that best supporting actor is the only one of the major categories that will be a runaway victory. But after Christian Bale wins that particular trophy for The Fighter, everything else is a pretty tight horserace.

In fact, the most popular words and phrases the online community is using to describe the best-picture race are "not sure," "uncertain" and "close," according to Zeta. For Bale the words they're using most are "brilliant," "amazing" and one or more of "win," "winner" or "winning."

For the record, Colin Firth wins best acor for The King's Speech over James Franco in 127 Hours; it's Natalie Portman in Black Swan over Annette Benning in The Kids Are Alright for best actress; and Melissa Leo in The Fighter narrowly beats Hailee Steinfeld in True Grit for best supporting actress.

Whether or not the Internet's tonal buzz is an accurate gauge of what Academy voting members are thinking is debatable, of course. Last year, Zeta looked only at best picture, best actor and best actress, and the buzz was an accurate predictor in two of the three categories (the buzz picked George Clooney in Up in the Air for best actor but Jeff Bridges won for Crazy Heart).

If Social Network beats King's Speech on Sunday, as tonal buzz suggests, it would be an upset, according to most online betting sites that have the latter as the odds-on favorite. In the best director category tonal buzz contradicts the bookies as well, as the betting odds favor Fincher over Hooper.

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