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Oscars on ABC win TV ratings week with record-low viewership

Yuh-Jung Youn accepts her Oscar for supporting actress.
“Minari’s” Yuh-Jung Youn accepts her Oscar for supporting actress.
(Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences/ABC)

Viewership for ABC’s Oscars telecast dropped to 10.403 million viewers, continuing the trend of record-low viewership for awards shows since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

Viewership for Sunday’s three-hour, 10-minute host-less ceremony at Union Station fell 55.9% from the 23.569-million average for the 2020 ceremony, which had been a record low, according to live-plus-same-day figures released Tuesday by Nielsen.

The Oscars’ viewership decline follows a 62% decrease for the Golden Globe Awards from 18.323 million to 6.913 million, its smallest audience since returning to NBC in 1996, and a 50.6% drop for CBS’ coverage of the Grammy Awards from 18.69 million to a record-low 9.227 million.

Analysts have attributed this year’s awards shows viewership declines to them being held in months they are usually not scheduled and format changes prompted by coronavirus-related restrictions.

Viewership for all forms of programming has decreased in recent years, in part because of competition from streaming programs.

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The substantial viewership declines for the Oscars in recent years also have been attributed to the lack of box office success of the best picture nominees.

The Academy Awards ceremony with the biggest audience ever was in 1998, when an average of 55.25 million viewers watched then-box office record-setter “Titanic” win the best picture Oscar. Billy Crystal was the host that year.

Since 2018 the Oscar ceremonies have averaged less than 30 million viewers.

The audience for Sunday’s Oscars telecast was still the largest for an ABC prime-time entertainment program since last year’s Academy Awards ceremony and topped the weekly ratings, ending CBS’ 13-week streak of having the top-ranked prime-time program.

The Oscars were the second ABC program in the 31-week-old 2020-21 prime-time season to finish first in the ratings, joining the network’s two-hour town hall with Joe Biden, “The Vice President and the People,” in the season’s fourth week.

While the Oscars retained its customary distinction as the television season’s highest-rated awards show, it lost the title of the most-watched entertainment program to CBS’ post-Super Bowl premiere of the reimagined version of “The Equalizer,” which averaged 20.404 million viewers on Feb. 7.

There were three other prime-time programs between April 19 and Sunday to average more than 7 million viewers — the CBS News magazine “60 Minutes,” at 7.185 million viewers; the NBC drama “Chicago Med,” 7.151 million; and the CBS comedy “Young Sheldon,” 7.007 million.

The Oscars gave ABC its second weekly victory of the season, averaging 4.05 million viewers. Its other weekly victory came in the season’s second week, Sept. 28-Oct. 4 when it aired three NBA Finals games and its coverage of a presidential debate topped the broadcast networks.

ABC’s second highest rated program was “Grey’s Anatomy,” 18th for the week, averaging 4.814 million viewers.

CBS finished second after 13 consecutive first-place finishes, averaging 3.81 million viewers.

CBS’ weekly average suffered from its decision last Tuesday to air repeats of “NCIS” and “FBI,” the season’s second- and third-ranked entertainment programs, after the announcement that a verdict had been reached in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin trial.

CBS replaced an original episode of “FBI: Most Wanted” planned for that night with a news special on the verdict.

NBC was third for the second consecutive week and fourth time in five weeks, averaging 3.51 million viewers.

Fox was fourth for the 13th consecutive week, averaging 2.73 million viewers for its 15 hours of programming. The CW again was fifth among the five major English-language broadcast networks, averaging 530,000 viewers for its 12 hours.

CBS, NBC and ABC each aired 22 hours of prime-time programming.

Fox’s top-rated program was the first original episode of the procedural drama “9-1-1” since March 8, which averaged 6.246 million viewers, eighth for the week. “9-1-1” has been Fox’s top-ranked program all nine weeks it has aired this season.

The martial arts action-adventure series “Kung Fu” had The CW’s biggest audience for the third time in the three weeks it has aired, averaging 1.067 million viewers, 113th among broadcast programs. Its overall rank was not available.

The ratings winner among prime-time cable programs was the hourlong interview of former President Donald Trump on the April 19 edition of “Hannity” on the Fox News Channel, which averaged 4.09 million viewers, 26th overall.

Fox News Channel topped cable network rankings in prime time for the fourth consecutive week, averaging 2.227 million viewers.

The second- and third-place finishers were the same as the previous two weeks, with MSNBC averaging 1.454 million viewers and HGTV averaging 1.291 million.


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