2023 Oscars ratings rise to three-year high but there’s a catch

Sunday’s generally well-received Oscars ceremony, which saw “Everything Everywhere All At Once” win seven awards en route to history, offered a mixed bag of success and failure in terms of its television ratings. 

According to Nielsen and as reported by numerous Hollywood trade sites, the 2023 Oscars was watched by 18.7 million viewers, a 12 percent increase from last year’s tepid 16.62 million viewers and well ahead of the all-time low mark of 10.4 million viewers who watched the 2021 ceremony. The 95th Oscars also stands as the highest-rated awards show of any kind since the 2020 Oscars.

But despite those rating victories, Sunday’s ceremony was the third-lowest rated Oscars broadcast since Nielsen began its tracking, ahead of only the 2022 event and the 2021 show which took place after a lengthy delay due to the coronavirus pandemic. Before this run, the 2020 ceremony stood as the least-watched Oscars of all time, and yet it still cleared 23 million viewers. Prior to 2020, the 2018 ceremony was the lowest-rated ever, with north of 26 million viewers. It’s not hard to see a pattern of attrition, especially when compared to the days when the Oscars routinely topped 40 million viewers.

Still, most would call the 2023 Oscars a rousing success – especially compared to last year’s ceremony which was marred by poor production decisions and Will Smith’s infamous burst of physical violence. “I’m not a big ratings or data analyst guy, but I would hope that with all the buzz out there, maybe people will go check it out and we’ll get a nice +7 rating [which reflects not just people who watched the show live but also people who watch a DVR recording of it within a week of it airing],” executive producer Ricky Kirshner told The Hollywood Reporter on Monday before the ratings were released.

Sunday’s ceremony made a fairly compelling case for itself throughout the night. Jimmy Kimmel returned to emcee the Oscars for a third time, and his monologue was praised for its vintage feel. Blockbuster hits “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Avatar: The Way of Water” were nominated for multiple awards, giving the Oscars a much-needed boost of populist appeal that had been lacking during the last two ceremonies. And Best Picture winner “Everything Everywhere All At Once” provided historic, winning seven Oscars including three for acting as well as Best Picture. The film, which A24 released a year ago this month, was also a box-office winner and maintained a large and young fanbase online for most of the awards season.

“I really feel that we delivered on what we said we would do — honoring the crafts and showing off the movies that were out there this year — and Jimmy scored, I thought,” Krishner said when asked how he felt about the ceremony. “So yeah, pretty happy.”

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