TV ratings for the Oscars were up 30% in African American households this year

Viola Davis won the Oscar in the supporting actress category Sunday for her role in "Fences."
(Paul Buck / EPA)

The Oscars saw in surge a viewership among African American households Sunday, a year after the motion picture academy came under fire for the lack of diversity among its nominees.

Nielsen data shows an average of 4.17 million black viewers were tuned into the 89th Academy Awards telecast, an increase of 30% over last year. The overall audience for the Oscars was 32.9 million, a 4% decline from the previous year and the lowest since 2008.

The Oscars averaged an 18.68 rating in African American homes, which is the highest number among the segment since 2014. The rating among black homes was higher than the overall rating of 18.39.

A rating point represents a percentage of homes watching a program.


African Americans accounted for 13% of the audience for the Oscars. For the last four years that figure was 9%.

The sizable increases reflect the motion picture academy’s push to diversify the slates of all-white nominees that filled the major Oscar categories in recent years.

In 2016, the academy broadened its membership ranks by inviting 683 film industry professionals to join, 41% of whom were people of color. The result was a far more diverse lineup of nominees and winners for the 2017 awards.

Mahershala Ali won best supporting actor for his performance in “Moonlight,” which also won best picture. Viola Davis was honored as best supporting actress for “Fences.” Producer Ezra Edelman shared a best documentary Oscar for “O.J.: Made In America.” And “Moonlight” director Barry Jenkins won for the screenplay he co-wrote.

Other black acting nominees included Octavia Spencer for “Hidden Figures,” a best picture contender that told the story of African American women mathematicians who worked for NASA in the early 1960s, and Denzel Washington for “Fences.”

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio