Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloe Zhao, Mollye Asher and Dan Janvey win Best Picture for 'Nomadland'. Picture: Bang Showbiz
Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloe Zhao, Mollye Asher and Dan Janvey win Best Picture for 'Nomadland'. Picture: Bang Showbiz

Oscars ratings plunge to record low

By The Washington Post Time of article published Apr 28, 2021

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By Emily Yahr

While it was expected that the 93rd annual Academy Awards would drop in ratings this year given the restrictions of a pandemic-era show and its two-month delay to late April, it was still jarring to see the numbers on Monday afternoon.

The Oscars dropped to a record low, averaging 9.85 million total viewers over the three-hour plus telecast, according to preliminary overnight numbers from ABC. That's a whopping 58% drop from 2020's ceremony that saw 23.8 million; the show has been on a steady viewership slide since 2014, when 43.7 million people tuned in and saw "12 Years a Slave" win best picture.

This year's Oscar numbers rank on par or just above the most-viewed broadcast television shows: The last new episode of CBS's "NCIS" on April 6 earned 10.6 million viewers.

Again, this was not a surprise, and not just for the reasons mentioned above as well as low name recognition among the best picture nominees: Award show ratings in general have plummeted and hit record lows over the course of the pandemic.

In March, the Grammys fell to 8.8 million, a 53% drop from 2020. The Golden Globes saw 6.9 million, a 63% fall year over year.

In September, 6.1 million people watched the Emmys, which was 13% fewer from the previous year.

Of course, this will cause much consternation about the Oscars, the telecast that used to bring in huge numbers.

Was it because of the pandemic? Was it because of the films nominated? Was there viewer awareness that the show was even on this weekend?

Should they resume the tradition of having a host?

Does this prove it's a bad idea for presenters to deliver speeches about each nominee instead of showing clips from movies? Are viewers just over celebrity trophy shows?

When it comes to the latter, it likely doesn't matter, because there is still much money to be made from the event, including from advertising during one of TV's increasingly rare communal viewing experiences.

The next Academy Awards is set for Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022.

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