Whether it was the ongoing drama of The Slap or blockbusters’ prominent role in the race for best picture, larger audiences were drawn back to the Oscars this year.
The 95th Academy Awards, which aired Sunday night on ABC, was seen by an estimated 18.7 million viewers, according to preliminary figures from Fast National Live + Same Day released by ABC on Monday. That’s 12% up from last year, but still low compared to most years.
The evening’s main counter-program, the season finale of The Last of Us, drew 8.2 million viewers on HBO and HBO Max. The show began at 9 p.m. EDT, one hour after the Oscars began.
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A common criticism of the Oscars is that the show celebrates films that don’t have wide appeal. This year, however, was markedly different, with two billion-dollar blockbuster sequels in the mix: Top: Gun Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water were both nominated for Best Picture. Angela Bassett has been nominated for a Marvel Movie for the first time. Even A24’s winning film, Everything Everywhere All At Once, grossed over $100 million at the global box office and ran in theaters for months.
For many years, the Oscars were often the second most watched television show of the year behind the Super Bowl. As of 2018, the Oscar show had never slipped below 30 million viewers, according to Nielsen records. The peak was 55 million people watching Titanic clean up in 1998.
From 43.7 million viewers in 2014, viewership steadily declined to 26.5 million in 2018 and then rose again to 29.6 million in 2019 and 23.6 million in 2020. The nadir came with the pandemic-related Show in 2021 with 9.85 million. It rebounded to 16.6 million last year, which was the second worst show ever.
Jimmy Kimmel, who officiated the ceremony in 2017 and 2018, returned to host the show and parachuted onto the Dolby Theater stage. The show also featured performances by pop stars like Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
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Television viewership has generally declined in the streaming era, and awards shows have illustrated that. The show garnered a total of 27.4 million social interactions across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and was the #1 trending topic on Twitter worldwide for its run.
As of Monday afternoon, Ke Huy Quan’s acceptance speech had over 1.3 million views on YouTube and Brendan Fraser’s up to 2.6 million.
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The ABC show also had 1.8 million views of the American Sign Language live stream.
“We wanted to go out and do a show that people would actually like and people would talk about,” Oscar producer Glenn Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter in the hours after the show. “We think we’ve succeeded. I really hope that (Montag) will deliver good news on the odds front, but either way I think it was a successful evening.”