SBC Bookies’ Corner – Pricing the unpredictable Oscars 2018

Deemed as the most unpredictable ‘Oscars Race’ in Hollywood’s history, how confident are bookmakers of predicting the winners of this weekend’s 90th Academy Awards (4 March).

Bookies Corner gets the lowdown on Hollywood’s eclectic field of movie contenders, and what factors are weighed up when pricing Oscar markets. Does box office success or critical opinion even matter, and do political or social factors influence movie judgement in what could well be betting’s most entertaining market!


Anthony Cousins, Unibet

SBC: With upsets in 2016 and 2017, are the Academy Awards becoming harder to predict for bookmakers?

Anthony Cousins ( ‎Head Of Sportsbook – Commercial Relations – Kindred Group): Gone are the days of “one horse races” in the Best Picture category, a big reason for this is the opening up of the Best Picture to more than just 5 nominations since 2009.

This results in a greater chance of “splitting the vote” and votes cast across more contenders resulting in smaller majorities that can be overcome.

The last few years have seen upsets of sorts but they were still films strongly in contention with both Spotlight and Moonlight firm second favourites.

The reality is that it’s not so hard to predict which of the 9 will win, but who do you want to back in a two horse race?

Spotlight beat The Revenant and Moonlight edged La La Land and when it comes to Three Billboards v The Shape Of Water with flip-flopping favourites it really is a coin toss what the voters will go for.

In the last 14 years of the Best Picture Oscar the favourite won 8 times and the second favourite 6 times, ultimately what has not really changed is we don’t see a dark horse winning at big odds in the Best Picture category. Elsewhere it is actually even more predictable! In the last 14 years, every Best Actor favourite has won except once when Sean Penn won for Milk and even he was a close second favourite.

It’s a similar story in the Best Actress category where only two favourites have failed to win in the same timeframe, again both to the second favourites.

If you take the main six categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress and Best Actor it is actually 10 years since there was a winner that was not ranked either favourite or second favourite.

That honour went to Tilda Swinton who won Best Supporting Actress for Michael Clayton back in 2008… so this year we expect our predictions to be correct once again.

Joe Lee – Paddy Power

SBC: This awards season has been dominated by Social (#metoo movement) and political (Trump criticism) dynamics. How should bookmakers gauge these factors when pricing market… Are the Oscars still a movie awards ceremony?

Joe Lee (Head of Trump Betting – Paddy Power):  In our humble opinion this doesn’t influence the pricing of the event that significantly, these extra-curricular activities won’t really cause us to look at a particular motion picture in any different light to how we would normally evaluate them (unless of course there were to be a theme relating to the presidency or #MeToo etc. included).

I guess what does come from this, however, is an increased awareness and loftier profile for the awards themselves, which would never be bad for business. The more people are engaged with the subplot or what certain personalities may say about Donald Trump etc., certainly adds to a heightened awareness that they are actually taking place. Awards ceremonies are now being used as a platform to push political agendas in many circles – who knows, we may see a run for a presidency launched at the Oscars in time!

Katie Bayliss – Betfair

SBC: Does critical or public opinion have any influence on Oscar judging when only four times in the past twenty years has the best-reviewed film won Best Picture category? 

Katie Bayliss ‎(Media Relations Manager – ‎Betfair): Public opinion definitely seems to play a big part in who and what takes home the most coveted statues in film, although there are occasionally upsets where films which were not favourites come from nowhere to claim against-the-odds victories – or so it appears.

From a betting perspective, the preceding awards such as the Golden Globes and the Baftas also influence who punters will back for the Oscars and give a good indication of what is likely to be handed out when it comes to Academy Awards night. Shrewd punters will also be aware of the fact that movies that celebrate Hollywood or the media or historical events tend to do well and films that get a lot of the airtime from the media in the build-up often come through in the end, regardless of reviews.

Alex Apati – Ladbrokes

SBC: There is a high presence of British talent recognised for this year’s Academy Awards. How will the Britpack fair this Oscars 2018?  

Alex Apati (PR Executive – Ladbrokes): There’s actually been quite a lot of interest in the Oscars betting so far this year – especially when it comes to backing all things British. 3 of the 5 nominated for Best Actor are British, including two of the favourites – one being Gary Oldman who looks a shoo-in for the gong at 1/16.

Elsewhere, Christopher Nolan remains second-favourite for Best Director, while Three Billboards was a long-time favourite and has been well-backed since the market opened, although it has drifted to second-fav in the market at 2/1 now, with The Shape of Water (4/6) overtaking it.

Roger Deakins has his 14th Oscars nomination, and despite never winning, is now 2/7 favourite for Best Cinematography for Blade Runner 2049.s So Plenty of nominations in Best Picture and various other categories for British films like Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, Dunkirk, Three Billboards, too!

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