According to early Nielsen data reported Monday by TVLine and other outlets, Sunday night’s Oscars ceremony was watched by more than 15 million people. That’s a sharp increase from last year’s all-time worst viewership total of just over 10 million people, but still a far cry from previous Academy Awards ceremonies – including the 2020 ceremony, which was the lowest-rated Oscars ever at the time, with more than 23 million viewers.
Sunday’s ceremony was always expected to generate slightly more viewership interest than last year’s Oscars gala, which was delayed until the end of April due to the coronavirus pandemic. This year’s show was the first to feature hosts in three years and also included starry musical performances from Beyonce, Billie Eilish, and the cast of “Encanto,” who were on hand to stage the first-ever live performance of hit song “We Don’t Talk About Bruno.” But all of those bold-face names – not to mention tributes to “The Godfather,” “Pulp Fiction,” and 60 years of James Bond, as well as a historic Best Picture win with “CODA” – were no match for the controversy the show generated when eventual Best Actor winner Will Smith slapped presenter Chris Rock for a joke Rock made at the expense of Jada Pinkett-Smith, Smith’s wife.
The moment exploded on social media and likely goosed the show’s ratings as it pushed past 11 p.m. on the East Coast. (In fact, for all the talk of making the ceremony shorter by excising winner results for eight categories from the live broadcast, the 2022 Oscars was actually the longest since 2018.)
The Oscars are the latest awards show to see some viewership gains in 2021, following the Screen Actors Guild Awards and Critics Choice Awards, both of which rose after last year’s barren figures.
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