ABC's Academy Awards Viewing Was Down From Last Year

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NEW YORK ( -- ABC's Academy Awards ratings did not live up to yesterday morning's projections, which were based on metered market data. The network was down, not up, compared to last year. But the broadcast's year-on-year decline is unlikely to have either ABC or the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences wringing their hands.
Photo: AP
Actor Jamie Foxx and Morgan Freeman with the Oscars they won, respectively, for best actor and best supporting actor at last night's ceremony. ABC's ratings for the show were down from last year.

Overall, the Oscar broadcast attracted some 70 million viewers who sampled six minutes or more. The event so far is the No. 1 entertainment broadcast of the season. The Fox network's Super Bowl sports broadcast had viewership of 86 million.

Audience decline
Nielsen Media Research national audience numbers, released this morning, show the Oscar broadcast delivered an average audience of 42.1 million, compared with 43.5 million viewers last year. In the advertiser-important category of adults ages 18 to 49, the network was down almost 3%.

Early yesterday, ABC issued its initial ratings analysis indicating that Sunday's Oscar broadcast ratings were the highest since 2000. That turned out not to be the case.

The final Oscar-viewing figures this year showed a 25.4 rating and a 38 share, while last year the show captured a 26 rating and a 40 share. (A rating is a percentage of all TV households. For example, a 1.0 rating is 1% of the total U.S. households with TV. A share is a percentage of TV households that have their sets on at a given time.)

Younger audiences
However, the network succeeded in delivering improvements in attracting younger audiences, which advertisers covet. The show had the best ratings in three years for adults aged 18 to 34, a 12.7 rating.

The attempt to raise ratings and make the show more appealing to younger viewers involved a reformatting of the event, a new host and a sizeable media outreach. The effort was complicated by the lack of blockbuster movies in awards contention. That fact was the subject of a skit by host Chris Rock, who surveyed African-American moviegoers about whether they had seen any of this year's selections: Finding Neverland, Million Dollar Baby or The Aviator. None had, although the Wayans Brothers’ comedy White Chicks had been seen by just about everyone.

Other award show declines
Audiences have also declined for other recent award shows such as the Grammys and the Golden Globes, on NBC and CBS, respectively.

Separately, the Barbara Walters’ Oscar Special delivered an average audience of 12.6 million and 4.1 rating among adults 18-49, up 8% in the key demo. The Oscar Countdown was also up 4% in adults aged 18-49 to a 9.5 rating.

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