LOS ANGELES, (Xinhua) — With 34.3 million viewers, the 88th Academy Awards brought in lowest viewership since 2008, according to preliminary figures released by Nielsen.
The audience for Sunday’s ceremony hosted by comedian Chris Rock at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood was 6.3 percent smaller than the preliminary 36.6-million average for last year’s ceremony hosted by actor Neil Patrick Harris. Last year’s ceremony averaged 37.26 million viewers, the lowest since 2009, showed the figures released on Monday.
Despite the decrease, the audience was the largest for an entertainment program since last year’s Academy Awards telecast. The Oscars are traditionally television’s most-watched entertainment program of the year.
Nearly 58 million people watched at least six minutes of the telecast, 8.1 percent less than last year’s 63 million. Viewership was up 1 percent among viewers’ ages 18-34, with a 9.4 rating compared to a 9.3 rating.
The rating is the average percentage of total viewers or a particular group watching. Viewership was also up among all male demographic groups. There was a 20 percent increase among men ages 18 to 34, a 6 percent increase among men ages 18 to 49 and men ages 25 to 54.
News of the drop in overall ratings for the telecast was cheered by local civil rights activists who called for a boycott of the telecast over the lack of black nominees in any of the acting categories for the second year in a row.
But hosted by Rock who has popularity among the black audience could probably mitigate the effect of any boycott. The last time Rock hosted the Oscars in 2005, African Americans accounted for 13 percent of the audience. In recent years, the figure has hovered around 10 percent.
Based on Oscar ratings history, a lack of major blockbuster box-office hits among the best picture nominees did not help. While “The Revenant,” “The Martian” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” were popular with moviegoers, other nominees, including “Spotlight” and “Room,” weren’t widely seen by American audiences.
“Brooklyn,” now in its 17th week, has grossed 36.5 million U.S. dollars in ticket sales in the U.S. and Canada, while “Room” has grossed just 13.4 million dollars at the box office over 19 weeks, according to box office analysis website ComScore.
The most-watched Oscar ceremony was in 1998, when an average of 55.25 million viewers watched then-box office record-setter “Titanic” wins the best picture Oscar and actor Billy Crystal was the host. Individual viewership figures began being kept in 1974.
For ratings purposes, the ceremony is considered to have run for three hours, 21 minutes, the longest since at least 2007, which ran eight minutes longer. Under Nielsen rules, the ratings cover the time from the start of the ceremony until the end of the final commercial break.
Viewership for most forms of programming have decreased in recent years because of increased competition for viewers’ attention from cable television, the Internet, viewing programming recorded earlier and video games.