Two years ago the Academy Awards (now The Oscars) created a bit of hub bub by expanding the number of Best Picture nominees from 5 to 10 in hopes of reviving the show's declining TV viewership. The viewership did bounce back to a five year high of 41.699 million, but anyone that attributes that to the 5 extra best picture nominees is kidding themselves. The increased viewership was all about Avatar (even though it didn't win Best Picture). Last year, no Avatar, and viewership slipped back down.
The Academy Awards is still the biggest annual non-football viewership event in US television, and it held up far better than most long running events until the turn of the 21st century. But a variety of changes in the last 10 years seem to have taken their toll, including shifting the broadcast from Monday at 9pm to Sunday at 8:30pm in 1999. 2008's show during the TV writers strike, at just over 32 million viewers, was the least viewed ever.
Since two of the relatively recent Academy Awards viewership peaks were the two times James Cameron had "the highest grossing motion picture in history" in the running (Titanic, 1998; Avatar, 2010), and none of the current year's movies has even remotely the same level of box office success, among the Best Picture nominees this year The Help had the biggest box office and it was only the thirteenth best during the 2011 calendar year.
I'd be surprised if we didn't see a continuing decrease in the viewership towards the recent decline trendline. I'll guess something in the 35-37 million average viewer range.
What's your guess?
Academy Awards TV Ratings, 1953-2011
|Year||Net||HH Rating||HH Share||Homes (million)||Viewers (million)||Best Picture||$/ 30 sec. ad|
|2011*||ABC||21.2||33.0||24.627||37.919||The Kings Speech||$1,368,400|
|2010*||ABC||23.3||37.0||26.794||41.699||The Hurt Locker||$1,126,700|
|2008*||ABC||18.7||29.0||21.073||32.006||No Country For Old Men||$1,820,000|
|2005||ABC||25.4||38.0||27.876||42.139||Million Dollar Baby||$1,503,000|
|2004||ABC||26.0||40.0||28.212||43.531||Lord of the Rings: Return of the King||$1,503,100|
|2002||ABC||25.4||42.0||26.832||41.782||A Beautiful Mind||$1,290,000|
|1999||ABC||28.6||46.0||28.466||45.615||Shakespeare in Love||$1,000,000|
|1997||ABC||27.4||46.0||26.531||40.075||The English Patient||$850,000|
|1992||ABC||29.8||50.0||27.446||44.406||The Silence ofthe Lambs|
|1991||ABC||28.4||48.0||26.440||42.727||Dances With Wolves|
|1990||ABC||27.9||48.0||25.700||40.375||Driving Ms. Daisy||$450,000|
|1986||ABC||27.3||43.0||23.450||37.757||Out of Africa||$320,000|
|1984||ABC||30.3||50.0||25.390||42.051||Terms of Endearment||$275,000|
|1982||ABC||33.6||53.0||27.384||46.245||Chariots of Fire|
|1980||ABC||33.7||55.0||25.713||48.978||Kramer vs. Kramer|
|1976||ABC||35.5||64.0||24.710||46.751||One... Coockoo's Nest|
|1972||NBC||38.7||70.0||24.030||The French Connection|
|1968||ABC||34.4||67.3||19.260||In the Heat of the Night|
|1967||ABC||41.2||74.9||22.620||A Man for All Seasons|
|1966||ABC||The Sound of Music|
|1965||ABC||37.4||69.3||19.670||My Fair Lady|
|1963||ABC||37.2||71.0||18.526||Lawrence of Arabia|
|1962||ABC||37.1||75.4||18.179||West Side Story|
|1958||NBC||46.3||78.2||19.210||The Bridge on the River Kwai|
|1957||NBC||37.3||69.2||14.187||Around The World In 80 Days|
|1955||NBC||45.0||57.0||18.785||On the Waterfront|
|1954||NBC||55.0||82.0||14.953||From Here To Eternity|
|1953||NBC||49.7||82.0||10.912||The Greatest Show On Earth|
*2006-2011 results are Live+SD, all previous years are Live viewing.
Nielsen Ratings Data: ©2012 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.