How I Met Your Oscar? Neil Patrick Harris to host Academy Awards

By Piya Sinha-Roy and Eric Kelsey LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Neil Patrick Harris, popular with younger TV viewers as the star of the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," has been tapped to host next year's Academy Awards ceremony, the organizers of Hollywood's biggest night said on Wednesday. Harris, 41, best known as Barney Stinson on the long-running CBS series, has also hosted TV's Emmy Awards. He has won three Emmys for hosting theater's Tony Awards. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is eager to draw a greater number of younger viewers to the TV broadcast of the 87th Oscars. The ceremony will be shown live to more than 200 countries from Los Angeles on Feb. 22 on the ABC television network, owned by Walt Disney Co. Talk show host and comedian Ellen DeGeneres emceed the ceremony this year, and drew the highest Oscars telecast audience in 14 years with 43.7 million tuning in. DeGeneres was also successful drawing a strong rating among the 18-49 demographic coveted most by advertisers. DeGeneres, who is openly gay like Harris, poked fun at the powerful people in the room, her own sexuality, handed out pizza and took a star-studded selfie that set Twitter's record for most retweets and briefly crashed the microblogging service. Harris, who won a best actor Tony Award this year in Broadway musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," most recently co-starred in dark thriller and early Oscar contender "Gone Girl." "I grew up watching the Oscars and was always in such awe of some of the greats who hosted the show," Harris said in a statement. "To be asked to follow in the footsteps of Johnny Carson, Billy Crystal, Ellen DeGeneres, and everyone else who had the great fortune of hosting is a bucket list dream come true." Harris helped break the announcement on Twitter with a video post showing him cheekily running down a "bucket list" of accomplishments before circling "Host the Oscars." Show producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron will run the live ceremony for the third consecutive time in 2015. The Broadway producers are known for delivering lively musical and dance numbers, which Harris has also done in his other hosting gigs. "To work with him on the Oscars is the perfect storm, all of his resources and talent coming together on a global stage," Zadan and Meron said in a statement. In recent years, the Oscars organizers have sought to draw a younger audience to the prestigious black tie gala show, to mixed results. In 2011, young, attractive actors Anne Hathaway and James Franco were panned for their co-hosting efforts and lack of chemistry, drawing one of the least-watched Oscars in a decade, while "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane in 2013 delivered a bigger audience but was criticized for his raunchy humor. The Oscars have also faced pressure from January's Golden Globe Awards, which has seen a viewership surge after it turned hosting duties over to popular comics Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. (Reporting by Eric Kelsey and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Chris Reese and David Gregorio)