New ABC Boss, Unfazed by Oscar Drama, Promises "Brisk, 3-Hour" Telecast

Karey Burke did not inherit the easiest Oscar telecast when she was named president of ABC Entertainment in November.

So it’s little surprise that the TV vet’s first sit-down with the Television Critics Association, which took place Tuesday morning, was peppered with attempts to clear up confusion about the event after losing emcee Kevin Hart. Right off the bat, she was asked if the absence of a host made her nervous. (The Academy on Tuesday officially confirmed that the ceremony will proceed without a host.)

“It did,” she admitted. “It no longer does. Ironically, I have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept them in the conversation. The mystery is really compelling. People really care.”

Burke was shy on details about what the 2019 Academy Awards will entail, adding that she still doesn’t know which categories will get skipped over during the televised portion, but she did say that the lack of a host will help the network achieve the primary objective coming out of the 2018 show — to keep it shorter.

“The main goal, which I’m told the Academy promised last year, is to keep the show to three hours,” said Burke. “The producers decided to wisely not have a host and have the presenters and the movies be the stars. That’s the best way to keep the show to a brisk three hours.”

Last year's Oscars ran an unforgivingly long three hours and 53 minutes. It certainly didn’t help the ratings, which hit an all-time viewership low of just 26.5 million viewers. When asked about the state of awards-show ratings, which are flagging across the board, Burke said she would be paying “close attention” to it throughout her tenure — and took another opportunity to stress the importance of “pace and length.”

“I think we’re going to see a big turnout for this,” she said, “At no time in history have we had three best pictures nominees that grossed over $200 million at the box office.”

Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star Is Born have grossed more than $2 billion combined. Burke emphasized the music of two of those nominees, in particular, as a way to bait viewers. “I think people are wildly excited about the best song nominees,” she said, pointing to Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper and Kendrick Lamar all being booked. “We have a phenomenal music show on its own.”

As for how the show will open, now that it is committed to not having a host, Burke only offered that it wouldn’t start with an award.

“From what I’ve heard, we have a very exciting opener planned,” she said. “We are not going to go straight into people thanking their agents.”

Feb. 5, 1:10 p.m. Updated with the Academy officially confirming that the Oscars will not have a host this year.