Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Last night's Oscars may end up being the lowest rated ever

It seems no amount of fist bumps could trigger an attendant bump in ratings.
Photo: Christopher Polk (Getty Images)

It looks like the answer to the question, “what is the shape of water, anyway?” might be, “The least-watched Oscars broadcast in history.” Deadline reports that Sunday night’s airing of the 90th annual Academy Awards is shaping up to be an all-time low, ratings-wise, possibly because of those “Walmart box” videos.

The telecast received an 18.9 Live+Same Day rating in early assessments, which, if true, would constitute the lowest ratings in the history of the Oscars. (That honor previously went to the Jon Stewart-hosted ceremony back in 2008, when No Country For Old Men won Best Picture and the show had a 21.9 rating.) It’s a drop of 16 percent from last year, which was already a nine-year low. Then again, The Shape Of Water is the highest-grossing Best Picture winner in five years, which is a useful reminder that higher-profile nominees don’t really mean a damn thing when it comes to TV ratings of the ceremony.

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Honestly, this is a good reminder that the Academy still doesn’t really have a clue about how to boost ratings. Including more popular films doesn’t seem to matter, and hot-button political campaigns don’t move the dial at all. The two highest-rated Oscar broadcasts of the 21st century do have one thing in common, though: Popular hosts whose fanbases aren’t necessarily going to watch the Oscars on their own. Take Chris Rock, who hosted in 2005, or Ellen Degeneres, who hosted in 2014: The audiences for an edgy black comedian and a genteel daytime talk-show host includes lots of people who don’t give a fuck about the Oscars, at least when it comes to watching the broadcast live. (Rock famously demonstrated this with a pre-recorded bit in which he asked black moviegoers which Oscar-nominated films they had seen.) Perhaps, if the network wants to draw in more viewers next year, they’ll get Blake Shelton and Taylor Swift to co-host, with some assistance from whatever 14-year-old became famous on YouTube that month.

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About the author

Alex McLevy

Alex McLevy is a writer and editor at The A.V. Club, and would kindly appreciate additional videos of robots failing to accomplish basic tasks.