Oscar ratings up, but not excellent

As I discussed in a post Thursday, Oscar ceremony ratings hit an all-time low last year. So this year, getting above 32 million viewers didn't seem like a huge challenge.

The challenge I hoped the new producers, along with a Hugh Jackman-hosted ceremony, would meet was the 46.2 million threshold, putting the ceremony in the Top 10 for best rated telecasts. Alas, it was an uphill battle. With no "Dark Knight" Best Picture nominations, viewers and film goers were not happy with the snub.

And the results are...

"Ratings for this year's Academy Awards improved substantially over last year and are the highest for any TV show (sports excluded) in two years," according to Zap2It.com.

ABC says an average of 36.3 million people watched the 81st annual Oscars on Sunday, making it the most-watched entertainment program of the season and bigger than any other entertainment program since the 2007 Oscars' 40.17 million viewers.

The adults 18-49 rating was up, too, rising from 10.7 in 2008 to 12.1 this year. All the other key demos improved too -- even men under 35.

The artilce reminds us that the numbers are based on "time zone-adjusted" fast national ratings that take into account the live nationwide broadcast. What they don't take into account is the last 25 to 30 minutes of the broadcast.

The situation: Nielsen marks the end time of a program as the time of the last national commercial break. For the Oscar telecast, that came at 11:25 p.m. ET Sunday. Unfortunately, the show ended a couple minutes before midnight ET. That last half-hour featured the big awards, where we assume more people watched (I know someone for example who started watched at this point). During this time, Kate Winslet in "The Reader" won the award for best actress, Sean Penn in "Milk" for best actor and "Slumdog Millionaire" for best picture.

"It's not unreasonable to expect there might have been an uptick in viewers," says writer Rick Porter in the article. "We just don't know if that happened based on the figures we have now."

Even if there was an "uptick," the ratings would not have beat my dream of Top 10 ceremonies. This is ratings-wise of course. Sunday's awards were also only the fourth since 1988 to fall short of 40 million viewers (last year, 2006 and 2003 are the others).

The ceremony itself, however, was one of the best I've seen in a long time. Oprah Winfrey agrees with me.

"I've been watching since I was 10 years old, and I think that was the best Academy Awards I have ever seen," Oprah said yesterday on a special edition of her show from the Kodak. "So classy, so respectful."

I'm going through all of the photos and will post some good ones tomorrow.

Ceremony Photo: ©A.M.P.A.S.®


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