In Depth

Oscar TV Ratings: Better, But Not Good

The 2009 Academy Awards rebounded from last year’s record low ratings, but not enough to prevent the show from ranking as the second lowest-rated ceremony ever among adults 18-49.

Oscars

According to preliminary fast national data from Nielsen supplied by ABC, Sunday’s Hugh Jackman-hosted ceremony notched a 12.1 rating in the key demographic group of adults 18-49 and attracted 36.3 million viewers overall. That’s a gain of 4.3 million viewers and 13% in the demo from last year, when a combination of factors—including lack of audience circulation caused by the writers strike—depressed ratings for Oscar.

While ABC and the show’s producers managed to reverse the erosion—no small feat in the modern TV era—Oscar’s shine isn’t as bright as it once was.

Among adults 18-49, Sunday’s broadcast finished below all other Oscar telecasts since 1992 (not counting the 2008 nadir). In 2007, for example, the Academy Awards averaged a 14.1/33, which means 2009’s show was down by double digits compared to the most recent non-strike year.

Sunday’s broadcast drew significantly lower ratings than most Oscar broadcasts in the past decade.

Nontheless, Oscar is still the king of kudos. As ABC noted, the show’s audience of 36.3 million viewers topped this year’s Golden Globes on NBC by 21.4 million viewers and CBS’s Grammy Awards by 17.3 million.

In addition, the Oscars rank as the most-watched entertainment broadcast of the season, surpassing Fox’s “American Idol” premiere by nearly 6 million viewers.

"Jimmy Kimmel Live" also gained ground from last year's post-Oscar telecast, with a 16% bump in total viewers to 4.3 million. The show also hit a two-year high in adults 18-49, with a 38% rise to 2.2 million. "Kimmel's" post-Oscar special featured actor-director Mel Gibson and singer Robin Thicke, along with a segment with Tom Cruise.

ABC's half-hour pre-show, “Oscar’s Red Carpet 2009,” with Tim Gunn and Robin Roberts, drew 24.3 million viewers and a 7.2 rating in adults 18-49, according to the network. That was up by 2.8 million viewers and by 13% in 18-49 from last year.

The network's “Barbara Walters Special” drew an average audience of 11.6 million viewers and delivered a 3.2 rating in the 18-49 demographic.

On cable, more than 3.2 million viewers tuned in to E!'s "Live From the Red Carpet: The 2009 Academy Awards" on Sunday, up 12% from 2008 in households. Among E!'s core audience, women 18-49, viewership improved 8% from 2008.

The Academy's Oscar.com Web site saw major year-to-year increases Sunday, with unique visitors and page views up 57% and 87%, respectively. Users spent an average of 11.63 minutes on the site per visit, up 15% from last year.

(Editor: Baumann. Updated 6:30 p.m. to add company correction from E! network viewer numbers.)