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Oscar Ratings Slide to a New 9-Year Low

By Brian Gallagher — February 27th, 2017

While Hollywood still can't stop talking about last night's Oscar telecast, which included an unprecedented Best Picture mix-up, the show suffered yet another big ratings slide. Last night's telecast drew in an average audience of 32.9 million viewers with a a 9.1 rating in the 18-49 demographic. Those numbers represent 4% drop in viewers a 14% drop in the 18-49 rating from last year, and the the smallest audience in nine years, since the 2008 telecast hosted by Jon Stewart that brought in 31.76 million. That 2008 telecast, which marked the last year where only five movies were nominated for Best Picture, is still the least-watched show in Oscar history, which drew in 31.8 million viewers.

The Hollywood Reporter reports that the show, which clocked in at three hours and 49 minutes, was the longest in 10 years, due to the epic Best Picture fiasco where La La Land was announced as Best Picture, with viewers and attendees learning shortly thereafter that the wrong envelope was given to presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunnaway, which was actually a duplicate envelope reavealing Emma Stone's Best Actress win for La La Land, which was handed out just minutes earlier. Despite the lengthy runtime, there were no major dips in viewership throughout the night, which peaked at around 9 PM ET/6 PM PT.

This year marks the continuation of a three-year Oscar ratings skid, which started in 2015 after the 2014 telecast drew in 43.6 million viewers, the highest since the year 2000. The 2015 Oscar telecast slid dramatically down to 37.2 million viewers, with 34.6 million viewers tuning in last year. Despite a number of gimmicks, such as a number of different snacks that fell from the ceiling at various points of the event, and a lengthy bit where an actual Hollywood tour bus group was surprised by being lead into the Dolby Theater, during the broadcast, viewers just simply didn't tune in, with the second-lowest viewer total in Oscar history.

The dip in ratings might also be due to the politically-charged awards season climate, which has seen a number of speeches criticizing President Donald Trump, including Meryl Streep's highly-publicized speech at the Golden Globes in January. Much to most analysts' surprise, there wasn't as much anti-Trump sentiment during the show, aside from a few bits here and there, including one where host Jimmy Kimmel sent a tweet to the U.S. President live during the show, between awards. It's possible that some assumed the show would be chocked full of political speeches, but that wasn't exactly the case.

The all-time record for the most-viewed Oscar telecast is still the 1988 broadcast, where 55.29 million viewers tuned in to watch James Cameron's Titanic win a record-tying 11 Oscars, including Best Picture. After The Academy Awards expanded the Best Picture field to include up to 10 movies, instead of the traditional five in 2009, the ratings did increase in 2010, 2012, 2013 and 2014, before this current three-year slide that is now just barely above the least-watched show in Oscar history. Now the Academy will start preparations for the 90th annual ceremony next year, which has the potential to either become the least-watched show in Oscar history, or start the Oscar ratings comeback.

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