Can this Sunday's show reverse a downward trend?

Recent ratings for the Academy Awards have been - to say the least - abysmal, a downward trend of bad to worse.

Ratings for last year's ceremony were the lowest ever, according to Nielsen figures, and down nearly 20 percent from the year before. ABC’s showing of the 80th Annual Academy Awards attracted 32 million viewers. The broadcast lasted from 8:30 to 11:38 p.m. ET (Source). The 2003 ceremony was Oscar's previous low, with 33 million viewers (Source).

An average of 39.9 million people watched the 79th annual Academy Awards two years ago, an improvement of one million viewers from the year before but still down from the '04 and '05 shows. "The Departed" took home the Best Picture Oscar. Ellen DeGeneres hosted; the show ran about three hours and 50 minutes -- the longest Oscarcast since the 2002 show, which stretched to more than four hours (Source).

According to a study by Nielsen Preview, Academy Awards viewership correlates directly with the box office draw of the best picture nominees and the popularity of the host:
During the 2004 Academy Awards (hosted by Billy Crystal), there was a 28% increase in households tuning in. This was the year that “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King” was nominated (and won) best picture. A blockbuster hit, generating over $350M in revenues, the movie’s broad appeal translated to a strong ratings boost to nearly all demographics. ... The highest rating for women 18-24 was in 2007 - the year Ellen Degeneres hosted. Ellen’s appeal with women also buoyed ratings (which had fallen in prior years) among women 35-55+.

Nielsen, on its Web site, listed the most-watched Oscar broadcasts since 1974. I've posted five here, all of which aired on ABC. Look at the site for the Top 10.

1 3/23/98 Titanic 55.2
2 4/11/83 Gandhi 53.2
3 4/14/80 Kramer vs. Kramer 49.0
4 4/3/78 Annie Hall 48.5
5 4/3/78 Forrest Gump 48.3
The ceremony would need more than 46.2 million viewers to break into the Top 10. The most recent year to do that was March 26, 2000. We'll have to wait and see what the number will be. Let's hope for more than 32 millon at this point.


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