Some 16.6 million people watched a drama-filled Oscars, an increase from last year and a boost to an awards show whose audience has been in steep decline.
The ratings were released by Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network, which broadcast the show. The network said they were a 58% improvement from a year ago, when a pared-down version of the event drew 10.5 million viewers.
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Still, the show drew the second-lowest audience for an Oscars ceremony. The peak of 55.2 million viewers occurred in 1998, when the blockbuster “Titanic” was the big winner.
Sunday night’s telecast will perhaps be best remembered for actor Will Smith smacking comedian Chris Rock on live television minutes before winning the best actor Oscar. The incident overshadowed a milestone in Hollywood history, the first time a movie released primarily online won best picture. “CODA,” which took home the top prize, was released on the streaming service Apple TV+.
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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which runs the awards, handed out eight trophies before the main event in an attempt to shorten the live ceremony. It still ran for more than three hours. Other attempts at broadening the audience included more presenters from the world of sports and music.