UPDATED: You could blame the movies. Or the boycott. Or host Chris Rock. Or the decline of broadcast ratings in general. But for some reason, the 88th annual Academy Awards were the least-watched telecast of the annual event in many years.
The Oscars delivered 34.5 million viewers and a 10.4 rating among adults 18–49. That’s 6 percent fewer viewers from last year’s telecast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, which was at a six-year low.
The news wasn’t all bad. ABC points out that the Oscars were the top non-sports telecast so far this year (per usual). The network also noted that the show was up in male demographics (including 20 percent in men age 18-34), and up very slightly among adults 18–34 (1 percent over last year’s show).
The drop was despite host Chris Rock earning plenty of praise for his hosting performance on Sunday night, and some considerable suspense surrounding the ceremony as the industry wondered how the comic would address the lack of diversity in the acting categories (Rock’s monologue is here; the winners list is here).
After ABC’s early numbers were released, Rev. Al Sharpton claimed credit for encouraging viewers to ignore the telelcast.
But Oscar viewership tends to hinge on the popularity of the most-honored movies, and insiders predicted a possible ratings drop given a heavy focus on indie titles like best picture winner Spotlight, along with films such as Room, The Danish Girl, and Brooklyn (though there were some audience favorites in the mix too, like Mad Max: Fury Road, which won six Oscars, and The Revenant, which scored three). The biggest Oscar telecast in the last decade was in 2005, when Million Dollar Baby took the top prize.