There was a time when the Academy Awards ceremony was must-see TV. It was one of the events people circled on their television calendar, like the Super Bowl. They’d hold watch parties and play games of predicting Oscar winners. That has become a rarer event. (Here’s a look back at some of the most iconic photos from the Oscars.)
The Nielsen ratings reveal a rather sad trend in Oscar viewership. After a slight uptick in 2014, the ratings on ABC for the industry’s biggest night plunged to an all-time low of 10.4 million viewers in 2021. That was the first year after the pandemic had devastated the industry as theaters closed, projects were postponed, and fewer movies were made.
In addition, recent Best Picture winners haven’t always been boffo at the box office. The 2013 Best Picture winner, “Argo,” was the last to bring in more than $100 million at the box office. People are streaming more content.
The program has a demographic problem, too: Fewer young people are tuning in. The 2021 show scored a 1.9 rating among adults 18-49, a key demographic for advertisers – a 64% slide from 2020. (The Academy Awards are not an outlier; award shows in general are falling in viewership.) Some viewers are also turned off by what they see as political posturing and advocacy for issues by award winners.
Viewership decline has come even as the Academy has tried to answer calls for greater diversity. There have been several notable Oscar firsts in recent years, such as Kathryn Bigelow becoming the female director to win an Oscar in 2010, and “Parasite” taking the honors in 2020 as the first Asian-made movie and the first non-English-language film to win for best picture. (These are 30 famous firsts in Oscar history.)
As Oscar viewership plummets, click here to see the most watched ceremonies since 2000
To determine the most (and least) watched Oscar broadcasts since the year 2000, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on television viewing audiences from media analytics firm Nielsen. Oscar ceremonies of the last 23 years were ranked based on U.S. television viewing audiences.
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