With No Blockbusters Up For Best Picture, Expect 'Academy Awards' Viewership To Fall; Ratings History + Your Guess For This Year (Poll)

Categories: 1-Featured,Academy Awards,TV Ratings,TV Ratings Reference

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February 24th, 2012

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
2009* ABC 20.6 31.0 23.567 36.310 Slumdog Millionaire $993,400
2008* ABC 18.7 29.0 21.073 32.006 No Country For Old Men $1,820,000
2007* ABC 23.6 37.0 26.317 40.172 The Departed $1,665,800
2006* ABC 23.1 35.0 25.405 38.939 Crash $1,646,800
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
2003 ABC 20.4 32.0 21.769 33.043 Chicago $1,345,800
2002 ABC 25.4 42.0 26.832 41.782 A Beautiful Mind $1,290,000
2001 ABC 26.2 40.0 26.800 42.944 Gladiator $1,450,000
2000 ABC 29.2 48.0 29.437 46.333 American Beauty $1,305,000
1999 ABC 28.6 46.0 28.466 45.615 Shakespeare in Love $1,000,000
1998 ABC 34.9 55.0 34.160 55.249 Titanic $950,000
1997 ABC 27.4 46.0 26.531 40.075 The English Patient $850,000
1996 ABC 30.3 50.0 29.016 44.867 Braveheart $795,000
1995 ABC 32.5 53.0 31.005 48.279 Forrest Gump $700,000
1994 ABC 31.1 49.0 29.296 45.083 Schindler's List $643,500
1993 ABC 31.2 51.0 29.047 45.735 Unforgiven $607,800
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
1989 ABC 29.8 50.0 26.940 42.619 Rain Main $375,000
1988 ABC 29.4 49.0 26.050 42.227 Last Emperor $360,000
1987 ABC 27.5 43.0 24.040 37.190 Platoon $335,000
1986 ABC 27.3 43.0 23.450 37.757 Out of Africa $320,000
1985 ABC 27.7 45.0 23.520 38.855 Amadeus $315,000
1984 ABC 30.3 50.0 25.390 42.051 Terms of Endearment $275,000
1983 ABC 38.0 59.0 31.654 53.235 Gandhi $245,000
1982 ABC 33.6 53.0 27.384 46.245 Chariots of Fire
1981 ABC 31.0 58.0 24.120 39.919 Ordinary People
1980 ABC 33.7 55.0 25.713 48.978 Kramer vs. Kramer
1979 ABC 34.6 63.0 25.770 46.301 Deer Hunter
1978 ABC 36.3 68.0 26.460 48.501 Annie Hall
1977 ABC 31.1 63.0 22.140 39.719 Rocky
1976 ABC 35.5 64.0 24.710 46.751 One... Coockoo's Nest
1975 NBC 35.0 62.0 23.980 48.127 GodfatherPart II
1974 NBC 36.7 68.0 24.300 44.712 The Sting
1973 NBC 37.8 68.0 24.490 The Godfather
1972 NBC 38.7 70.0 24.030 The French Connection
1971 NBC 38.2 70.0 22.960 Patton
1970 ABC 43.4 78.0 25.390 Midnight Cowboy
1969 ABC 31.8 56.0 18.130 Oliver!
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
1964 ABC 37.0 71.3 18.980 Tom Jones
1963 ABC 37.2 71.0 18.526 Lawrence of Arabia
1962 ABC 37.1 75.4 18.179 West Side Story
1961 ABC The Apartment
1960 NBC 45.8 82.4 20.430 Ben-Hur
1959 NBC 46.7 82.0 20.284 Gigi
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
1956 NBC 48.0 70.0 16.251 Marty
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

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*2006-2011 results are Live+SD, all previous years are Live viewing.

Nielsen Ratings Data: ©2012 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

 
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