Oscars Viewership Falls to Under 10 Million for the First Time Ever

The 93rd Academy Awards, a.k.a. “the Oscars,” which was broadcasted live on April 25, was not the most memorable one. According to initial data released by Nielsen, only 9.5 million Americans watched the show.

What We Know:

  • An April 27 update revealed the final number to be 10.4 million watchers. This is a significant drop from last year’s show, which brought in an audience of 23.6 million. From 2020-2021, the Oscar crowd went down 58%.
  • Nielsen announced the ratings of the target demographic, ages 18-49, as well. The group rated this year’s Oscars a 1.9, which is “a steep and worrisome dive.” In 2019, the yearly production had a 7.7 rating from the same category.
  • This is not unusual for the 2021 Awards Season. February’s telecast of the Golden Globes suffered a viewership decline of 63%, and March’s Grammy Awards plummeted to 51%. CNBC reveals the Oscars’ small audience may also be due to a lack of moviegoers amid the pandemic. Also, not many people had seen or heard of the nominated movies.
  • Another reason for the shortage includes producers’ efforts to change the mood and feeling of the Oscars. Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh, one of the three producers, intended to make several unique changes to the show. Alongside Stacey Sher and Jesse Collins, he intended to make the event feel like a movie instead of a TV show. He did so by changing the scenery from the usual Dolby Theatre to the Union Station. The producers also switched the order of the awards’ presentations; they announced Best Picture earlier on in the event and moved Best Actor until the end.
  • Also, due to COVID-19 restrictions, not many actors could be invited. Further, it meant the usual Best Song performances that offer “moments of levity and spectacle between speeches” could not occur. Instead, the nominees prerecorded their performances, and they were played before the Oscars began.
  • Because of Sunday’s low ratings, advertisers may face financial losses. The Washington Post writes this is because ABC does not offer rating guarantees to its sponsors. On top of that, studios who expected free publicity for their winners must search for other ways to reach the audience. However, companies such as Google, General Motors, and Adidas still paid $2 million for a commercial, despite fearing low ratings.
  • The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which oversees the Oscars, obtains a heaping portion of its revenue from the event. This is because ABC pays $75 million annually for broadcasting rights to the Academy Awards. ABC has a contract with the Academy until 2028. It allows the Academy to stay afloat financially even if Sunday’s production did not have a good turnout. Yet, the Washington Post reported that the 2028 deadline raises the possibility of a reorganization. Some options include moving the Oscars to another network or completely remaking the prestigious awards show.

Additionally, the Academy Awards have seen a steady decline in viewers throughout the past few years. During the 2010s, viewership reduced to “barely half” of its numbers at the beginning of the decade. The 2010 production had 42 million viewers, but the 2020 one only had 24 million. This may be due to the outrage on the lack of diversity in the nominees and not having a host for three consecutive years.

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