LOS ANGELES (AP) — Whether it’s the lingering slap in the face or the prominence of blockbusters in the best picture race, this year’s Oscars show has attracted a bigger audience.
According to preliminary Fast National Live+Same Day numbers released by ABC on Monday, an estimated 18.7 million people watched Sunday night’s 95th Academy Awards on ABC. That’s up 12% from last year’s show, but still low compared to most years.
The night’s main show was the season finale of “The Last of Us,” which drew 8.2 million viewers on HBO and HBO Max. The show kicks off at 9 p.m. ET, an hour after the Oscars start.
A common criticism of the Oscars is that the films the show celebrates don’t have broad appeal. This year, however, is markedly different, with $2 billion blockbuster sequels: “Top: Gun Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” both nominated for Best Picture. Angela Bassett is nominated for her first Marvel film. Even the award-winning A24’s “All at the Same Time,” grossed more than $100 million worldwide and remained in theaters for months.
For many years, the Oscars have typically been the second-most-watched TV event of the year, behind the Super Bowl. According to Nielsen records, until 2018, the number of viewers of the televised Oscars never fell below 30 million. The high water mark was 55 million people who watched the cleaning of the “Titanic” in 1998.
Viewership dropped steadily from 43.7 million in 2014 to 26.5 million in 2018 before recovering to 29.6 million in 2019 and 23.6 million in 2020. Viewership hit rock bottom with 9.85 million viewers as the pandemic abates in 2021. It bounced back last year to 16.6 million, the second-lowest ratings of any show ever.
Jimmy Kimmel, who previously hosted the awards in 2017 and 2018, returned to host the show, parachuting onto the Dolby Theater stage. The show also includes performances by pop stars such as Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
In the age of streaming, broadcast TV ratings are down across the board, and award shows illustrate that. The show racked up 27.4 million combined social interactions across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, and was the #1 global trending topic on Twitter during its run.
Ke Huy Quan’s acceptance speech had more than 1.3 million views on YouTube as of Monday afternoon, while Brendan Fraser’s had 2.6 million views.
The American Sign Language live broadcast on the ABC broadcast also had 1.8 million views.
“What we wanted to do was go out there and do a show that people would actually love, a show that people would talk about,” Oscar producer Glenn Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter hours after the show ended. “We think we did. I certainly hope (Monday) brings good news in terms of ratings, but regardless, I think it was a successful night.”