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Oscars maintain time-honored tradition of getting historically bad ratings

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Reese Witherspoon at the Oscars
Reese Witherspoon at the Oscars
Photo: Richard Harbaugh/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Last night’s Academy Awards ceremony may have been unusual, with no host and very few skits or songs to break up the somewhat uncomfortably earnest (and largely clip-free) award presentations, but at least we can all take some comfort in the fact that the 2021 Oscars was still a whole lot like the last few Oscars in one very important way: Nobody watched it. According to The Hollywood Reporter, last night’s Academy Awards set a new record for all-time ratings low, and though that’s a thing that’s been said about the Oscars many times in the past, we should be clear that they really mean it this time.

Last year’s Oscars, which aired about a month before the pandemic started to take hold in his country, set the previous all-time low record with around 23.6 million viewers and a 5.3 rating in the all-important 18-49 marketing demographic. As for 2021, early estimates for this year’s Academy Awards (final numbers will be released tomorrow) put it at 9.8 million viewers and a 1.9 rating in the key demo. It’s generally hard to conceptualize what constitutes bad ratings versus good ratings, as 9.8 million people sounds like a lot out of context, but the point here is that the number is way down from last year and that last year’s number was even down from previous years.


It’s bad, but it’s worse for everyone else. THR points out that the Academy Awards are still the most-watched awards show (though the Grammys do better in the key demo), which means every other show is that much worse, and even with those relatively poor numbers the Oscars telecast was still the biggest audience ABC had gotten since the NBA Finals in October. The good news is that that means not very many people saw Anthony Hopkins win Best Actor over Chadwick Boseman or the abrupt ending that followed, but that’s only good news in the sense that everything surrounding it is bad news.