Oscars Scores Plummet, With Fewer Than 10 Million Tuning In

LOS ANGELES – For the film industry, which was already struggling to maintain its place at the center of American culture, the Nielsen ratings for the 93rd Academy Awards on Sunday night were a heavy blow: around 9.85 million people watched the show on, a 58 percent drop from last year’s record low.

Among adults between 18 and 49, the population that many advertisers pay a premium to reach, the Oscars saw an even bigger drop of 64 percent, according to preliminary data from Nielsen released on Monday. Nielsen’s final numbers are expected on Tuesday and include the off-home display and some streaming stats.

The Academy of Arts and Sciences for Feature Films declined to comment.

The academy had braced itself for a sharp drop in ratings. Awards ceremonies had big problems during the pandemic, and the Oscars have been on a downward trend for years. However, some academy officials had hoped that Sunday’s television show could still crack 10 million viewers and attract up to 15 million.

Humiliating? Certainly. But hundreds of millions of dollars are also at stake.

Under a long-term licensing deal with Disney-owned ABC, the academy is set to raise around $ 900 million for worldwide broadcast rights to the Oscars between 2021 and 2028. The funds are vital to the running of the academy, especially when it comes to opening a museum in Los Angeles. But some of that money is threatened. Payments to the Academy include a guarantee and then a revenue share when certain ad sales thresholds are met.

So far, ABC has been able to keep ad rates high due to the fragmentation of television. Oscar’s night may be a shadow of his former self, but so is the rest of network television; The ceremony is still one of the biggest television events of the year. Google, General Motors, Rolex, and Verizon spent an estimated $ 2 million on every 30-second commercial on Sunday’s television show, which is only a slight drop from last year according to media buyers. ABC said Thursday that it sold out of its inventory.

ABC does not guarantee Oscar advertisers audience size, which eliminates the potential for so-called branded products (additional trading time at a later date) to make up for low ratings.

Some people in the entertainment industry, whether out of optimism or disapproval or both, believe that awards ceremonies are experiencing a temporary downturn – mirroring declining ratings for stalwarts like the Emmys (a 30-year low) and Screen Actors Guild Awards (down 52 percent) the pandemic, no paradigm shift. Without a live audience, the TV shows have lost their energy. The big studios have also postponed big films, leaving this year’s awards ceremony to little-seen art films.

The most nominated film on Sunday was “Mank”. It received 10 nods. Pre-show polls showed that most Americans had never heard of it, let alone seen it, even though it was available on Netflix. “Mank,” a love letter from David Fincher to Old Hollywood, won for production design and cinematography.

Even so, the Oscars have been on a slide since 1998, when 57.2 million people tuned in to watch the Titanic ride to the best-picture win.

Many factors have undercut the ratings, starting with the delivery route. Old radio networks like ABC are no longer so relevant, especially for young people. (A growing award show is the Game Awards, which celebrate the best video games of the year and are streamed on platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter.)

Updated

April 26, 2021 at 12:32 AM ET

In many cases, analysts say, the television shows are too long for timely attention spans. The ceremony on Sunday was one of the shorter in recent years and still lasted 3 hours 19 minutes. Why go through all of this when you can catch snippets on Twitter? On Sunday, the video of the ceremony in which Glenn Close showed twerking on “Da Butt” went viral.

Increasingly, the ceremonies are less about entertainment awards and more about civic issues and progressive politics, which inevitably annoys half of the audience. Regina King, a former Oscar winner and director of “One Night in Miami,” admitted this at the head of the show.

“I know many of you at home will want to reach for your remote when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you,” she said. “But as a mother of a black son, I know the fear so many live with, and no amount of fame or fortune changes that.” Half a dozen award winners followed her lead, speaking on issues such as racial justice and police brutality.

Awards show that fatigue is also a factor. There are at least 18 televised ceremonies each year, including the Grammys (down 53 percent) and Golden Globes (down 62 percent). Even so, the drop in Oscars ratings has been more drastic in recent years, and the Grammys are nearing the most watched awards show that was once an unthinkable idea. Last month’s Grammys show had nearly nine million viewers.

The academy itself played a role in the end of the show, trying to make it more relevant (hastily announcing a new category that recognizes success in “popular” films and then backtracking it) and declining ABC’s plea to reduce the number of Oscars presented during the show.

On Sunday the procedure was particularly restrained – almost the opposite of an award ceremony with large tents. The best song performances have been moved to the preshow. Movie clips have been scaled down. Comedy parts were sparse. Much of the show was dedicated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charity that provides shelter and health care for Hollywood seniors.

An academy spokeswoman said the Oscars producers were unavailable Monday to discuss their decisions.

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