UPDATED with official Live+Same Day ratings: It was an Oscar do-over last night for host Jimmy Kimmel, producers Mike De Luca and Jennifer Todd and Best Picture presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Following last year’s Envelopegate, which led to Beatty and Dunaway inadvertently announcing a wrong Best Picture winner, the quartet’s second go-round went without a hitch.
But the good news did not carry over to ratings for the 90th Academy Awards, which (correctly) crowned The Shape of Water as Best Picture. Last night’s ceremony, which aired live from 8 PM-11:54 PM EST, averaged 26.5 million viewers (Live+same day) . That was down 19% from last year’s 32.9 million viewers, a nine-year low.
That, despite the fact that The Shape of Water was the the highest-grossing Best Picture winner in five years.
The Oscar ratings doom and gloom was foreshadowed by the first numbers to come in this morning. The ceremony drew a paltry 18.9 Live+Same Day rating in the metered market households, an all-time low and down 16% from last year’s 22.4 rating, which was a nine-year low. The metered market total, which did not include ratings for the Boston TV market due to the severe weather conditions there, was well below the previous Oscars low ratings point, logged with the 2008 telecast (21.9), hosted by Jon Stewart, when No Country For Old Men won Best Picture.
The drop is big — the Oscars had never fallen below 32 million viewers and 21 metered markets household rating before, forcing pundits to scratch their heads. One explanation — the Oscars rubber stamped winners who already had swept the awards shows that preceded it, making for one of the most predictable Academy Awards ceremony in years. Some pointed to the length of the show, which again flirted with the 4-hour mark, others to the ubiquitous montages, the overall modest box-office performance of the movies nominated for best picture and the injection of politics/social issues into the speeches. However, most if not all of these factors were also present the last couple of years when the numbers were higher. And the Oscars’ strongest competition, AMC’s The Walking Dead, was actually a more potent ratings performer in years past.
The best that Hollywood’s big night has done in the first round of ratings over the past decade-plus was back in 2005. That show, hosted by Chris Rock, got a 30.1 metered market households. Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby won Best Picture that year, and the broadcast went on to score 42.1 million viewers in the final number. With 12 Years a Slave winning Best Picture, the 2014 Oscars fronted by Ellen DeGeneres (27.9 metered market HH rating) drew the biggest overall audience of the 21st century, with 43.7 million tuning in.
Here are the final viewership totals for the Academy Awards so far this century, what won Best Picture that year and who hosted:
2018 26.5 million, The Shape of Water (Jimmy Kimmel)
2017 32.9 million, Moonlight (Jimmy Kimmel)
2016 34.4 million, Spotlight (Chris Rock)
2015 37.3 million, Birdman (Neil Patrick Harris)
2014 43.7 million, 12 Years a Slave (Ellen DeGeneres)
2013 40.3 million, Argo (Seth MacFarlane)
2012 39.3 million, The Artist (Billy Crystal)
2011 37.9 million, The King’s Speech (Anne Hathaway/James Franco)
2010 41.3 million, The Hurt Locker (Steve Martin/Alec Baldwin)
2009 36.3 million, Slumdog Millionaire (Hugh Jackman)
2008 32.0 million, No Country For Old Men (Jon Stewart)
2007 40. 2 million, The Departed (Ellen DeGeneres)
2006 38.9 million, Crash (Jon Stewart)
2005 42.1 million, Million Dollar Baby (Chris Rock)
2004 43.5 million, The Lord Of The Rings: The Return of the King (Billy Crystal)
2003 33.0 million, Chicago (Steve Martin)
2002 41.8 million, A Beautiful Mind (Whoopi Goldberg)
2001 42.9 million, Gladiator (Steve Martin)