According to early numbers from Nielsen, which are not reliable for live events, the Sunday telecast on ABC drew an average of about 40.2 million viewers during prime time. That's 9% higher than the preliminary numbers from last year's Oscars.
Accurate numbers won't be released until later Monday, but the early figures indicate that the show could top last year's telecast, hosted by Seth MacFarlane, which ended up with 40.4 million viewers in the final tally.
In Nielsen's 56 metered markets, the 86th annual Academy Awards broadcast brought in a household rating of 27.9 from 8:30 to 11:30 p.m., up 7% from last year and marking the highest number since 2005.
"Dallas Buyers Club" and "Gravity" scored big victories, while "12 Years a Slave" won Best Picture.
DeGeneres' performance featured a much tweeted-about "selfie" photo taken with a cluster of stars, and at one point she brought in pizza for audience members.
The record for Oscar viewership was set in 1998, when the gala drew 55.3 million people. That was the year the blockbuster "Titanic" won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture.