Last year, when the Academy Awards decided to go hostless for first time in 20 years, the show that sunk to a new ratings low in 2018 got a ratings bump with 29.6 million viewers — an 11% increase from the previous year. It stopped a four-year drop, growing the audience for the first time since 2014.
That was not the case with Sunday’s three-hour-plus show as ratings plummeted to new historic low with 23.6 million viewers and a 5.3 rating among adults 18-49, far below last year’s stats.
Blame it on a show that seemed driven by random musical interludes including Janelle Monae opening the show by singing the Mr. Rogers theme song “It’s a Beautiful in the Neighborhood” to Tom Hanks, who was nominated for playing the children’s TV host. Then singers of note like Elton John and Randy Newman were tasked to perform their nominated best songs from “Rocketman” and “Toy Story 4” but never were formally introduced. And then, for whatever reason, Eminem finally got to wail his Oscar-winning rap opus from 2002’s “8 Mile,” the first hip-hop song to win the honor, that he didn’t get to perform at that year’s ceremony.
Also, the 92nd edition of Hollywood glad-handing aired two weeks earlier than last year, not long after the Golden Globes, the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the Grammys. As a result this year’s Oscars were down 20 percent year to year in viewers and 31 percent in the key ad-sales demo of adults 18-49.
It’s not like the films that were up for prizes weren’t popular. “Joker,” which had the most nominations with 11, is the first-ever R-rated film to gross over $1 billion at the box office. “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” with 10 nominations, led to the biggest opening for a Quentin Tarantino with $41 million and grossed $374.3 million worldwide.
The show had its moments, especially when it became clear that the South Korean film “Parasite” was going to win Best Picture, becoming the first foreign language film to do so. But there was no real must-see moments like Queen being onstage in honor of “Bohemian Rhapsody” or Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper steaming up TV screens with the Oscar-winning song “Shallow.” Grammy whiz kid Billie Eilish did a fine rendition of “Yesterday” during the In Memoriam segment but it wasn’t enough.
At least the Oscars retained its status as the most-watched awards show, although the recent Grammys had a slightly higher 18-49 rating — 5.4 — a first since 2012.
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