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Mar 25, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Monday, March 25, at noon (PT); last updated at 1 p.m.

Academy Awards telecast flirts with record-low ratings

Preliminary fast national ratings have ABC’s “74th Annual Academy Awards” telecast tracking near historical ratings lows for the prime-time portion of Sunday night’s longest-running Oscar fete ever (8:30 p.m. to 1 a.m., ET).

For the 8:30 p.m.-to-11 p.m. portion of prime time measured by Nielsen Media Research’s preliminary fast national measure, the Academy Awards posted a 26.0 rating/39 share household average and 42.6 million total viewers-putting the show on track as the lowest-rated telecast in the 49-year broadcast history of the Oscars.

The all-time low-water mark for the Oscars was last year, when the preliminary fast national measure was a 24.9/37 household score and 40.1 million total viewers. In the final nationals, the 2001 awards show earned a 26.2/40 and 42.9 million viewers. The 2002 edition could come out lower because HUT (households using television) figures most often drop as the night progresses-particularly after 10 p.m.

In the key adults 18 to 49 demographic Sunday night, the 74th Academy Awards’ 16.5/37 average marked 2 percent slippage from last year’s 16.7/36 in the comparable fast national returns. The 2002 edition was also off 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively, from the 2000 awards (19.2/43) and the 1999 fete (18.8/43) in the comparable fast nationals.

At 9 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., the Oscars telecast topped out with a 17.9/38 average in adults 18 to 49. It dropped 14 percent to a 15.4/37 for the final half-hour of prime time (10:30 p.m. to 11 p.m.).

Much of the ratings erosion could be traced to the ongoing slippage in broadcast network viewing shares to the cable networks and increasing viewing options. The highest-rated Oscars telecast was in 1954, when NBC drew a 55.0 rating/82 share household average. That telecast was followed by intermittent but steady declines in the ratings during the past five decades.

Filling the 7 p.m.-to-8 p.m. frame with its annual pre-Oscars Barbara Walters interview special, ABC won the hour in adults 18 to 49 (7.5/20), women 18 to 49 (9.2/25), households (12.6/28) and total viewers (30.6 million). From 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., ABC’s pre-Oscars warm-up show, “On the Red Carpet,” increased 48 percent on its lead-in by posting a top-ranked 12.9/30 among adults 18 to 49.

For Sunday evening’s 7 p.m.-to-11 p.m. prime-time rotation, ABC posted winning scores in adults 18 to 49 (13.8/32), households (22.5/35) and total viewers (36.5 million).

NCAA Tournament posts year-to-year ratings gains: As CBS Sports wound up coverage of the regional finals of the 2002 Men’s NCAA Basketball Championship on Sunday, the college hoops tourney boosted its year-to-year ratings 10 percent to a 6.4 rating/13 share household average through eight days of games, according to Nielsen Media Research metered market data. The 2001 tourney posted a 5.8/12 during the comparable span. The latest household score is the highest overnight household average since 1994’s 6.6/15 average through the regional finals.

Through Sunday’s coverage, CBS Sports researchers said the overnight ratings have gained year to year in seven of the eight days of the tournament’s coverage. Saturday’s coverage of the regional finals — featuring Indiana vs. Kent State and Missouri vs. Oklahoma — averaged a 6.9/14, representing a 3 percent decrease from last year’s 7.1/14. On Sunday, the final round of the East regionals — with Maryland vs. Connecticut and Kansas vs. Oregon — posted a 7.6/15 overnight household average, up 3 percent from last year (7.4/15).

Moving on to Final Four coverage in Atlanta, CBS will carry the Indiana-Oklahoma and Maryland-Kansas games on Saturday, March 30. The winners of those games will face off in the NCAA championship game on Monday, April 1, starting at 8 p.m. (ET).

WLWC-TV picks up WBZ-TV programming: On April 1 Viacom-owned UPN affiliate WLWC-TV, Providence, R.I., will begin airing the two-hour 5 a.m. newscast of its sister station, CBS-owned WBZ-TV, Boston. In addition, WBZ’s “Sports Final” show hosted by Bob Lobel will debut on WLWC on April 7 at 11:30 p.m.

“We’re pleased to introduce two programs to the viewers of Providence, many of whom commute between Rhode Island and Massachusetts,” said WBZ General Manager Ed Goldman, who runs WLWC in addition to WBZ and UPN affiliate WSBK-TV, Boston.#

(c) Copyright 2002 by Crain Communications