"The 80th Annual Academy Awards" on ABC took in a Nielsen preliminary 21.9 household rating/33 share--a massive drop of 21% versus last year's numbers of 27.7/42.
That's not all. The 21.9 rating is also 14% below the lowest-rated Oscar event ever, which was in 2003 during the start of the Iraq war. Then, the telecast earned 25.5. That year, the Oscars pulled in 33 million viewers. This year, the Oscars grabbed 1 million fewer viewers. It also pulled in a low 10.7 rating among 18-49 viewers.
There is plenty of blame to go around, according to analysts--everything from the writers' strike disruption, to low-grossing, thinly seen boutique nominated films to less marketing support for the show.
Responsibility also lies with the subject matter, according to analysts, which was dark and depressing. However, for some, this made a better fit for Hollywood on Sunday night, which endured showers and rain and cool temperatures.
"I thought it would be the reverse," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president and corporate research director for Horizon Media. "There was no Golden Globes, no People's Choice Awards. It wasn't about saturation. It wasn't because of a lack of award shows." Adgate also points out that the Grammy ratings were down sharply as well.
Even with this performance, the event is still a positive for advertisers. "I don't think the Oscars are in trouble," says Adgate. "It's still the only show that does a 20 household rating that is not post-season football. I don't think you'll see a drop in ad prices."
For its part, ABC explains that DVR usage might be a factor. In 2006, for example, DVRs were only in 13% of U.S. TV homes. Now, it's up to nearly 23%. Adgate disputes this, however, saying the show is mostly watched live.