Oscars’ TV audience dropped – maybe to an all-time low, early ratings show

Academy Awards host Jimmy Kimmel is shown onstage during the 89th Academy Awards at the Dolby Theatre.[]

LOS ANGELES – The early ratings for ABC’s telecast of the 90th Oscars are down from last year and may be an all-time audience low.

The broadcast, which lasted nearly 4 hours, averaged a 18.9 rating in the 56 overnight markets measured by Nielsen. That was down 16 percent from last year’s comparable figure, a 22.4 rating. The national audience count will be issued later Monday.

The 2017 ceremony garnered 33.9 million viewers, the lowest since the 2008 ceremony hosted by Jon Stewart drew the smallest audience in Academy Awards history: 32 million viewers. ABC late-night host Jimmy Kimmel was the emcee of Sunday’s telecast, his second consecutive year in the role.

The Oscars telecast faces the challenge that all major television events do: the emergence of streaming online video. No free stream of the Oscars was available, but with so many programming options, even a major awards telecast that is perennially the most-watched entertainment program of the year is no longer an automatic default choice for viewers. The Grammy Awards and the Super Bowl both experienced ratings declines this year.

The Oscars’ television audience also has been dropping in recent years as voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences have tended to celebrate smaller movies. The 2018 winner for best picture, “The Shape of Water,” has earned $57.4 million at the box office in the U.S. and Canada, making it the highest-grossing honoree in the category since “Argo” in 2013.

Viewers may have also become weary of this year’s awards-show speechifying about the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements exposing and combating sexual harassment in the entertainment industry. In a particularly insider-y moment, lead actress winner Frances McDormand finished an otherwise emotional tribute to the other female nominees with the term “inclusion rider,” referring to a contractual clause that requires a specific level of diversity in the cast and crew of a project.


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