The ABC show grabbed a Nielsen preliminary 12.1 rating/28 share among 18-49 viewers and some 36.3 million total viewers. That means a 13% improvement in 18-49 viewers and a 12% gain over total viewers of a year ago.
But don't cheer too long: Last year ABC was stuck--as were all other networks--in a prolonged three-month writers' strike, which took many viewers out of circulation for the big event. That Oscars show hit the lowest ratings ever, with 32.0 million overall viewers. In 2007, ABC had 40.2 million viewers.
ABC's "Oscar's Red Carpet 2009" pre-show also had bigger pull this year, taking in 24.3 million viewers and a 9.3 rating/22 share among adults 18-49 from 8:00 to 8:30 p.m. Total viewers were up 12% and adult 18-49 demo was 13% higher versus a year ago.
ABC's annual "Barbara Walters Special" at 7 p.m. was also up--with a 5.3 rating/14 share among 18-49 viewers.
The only competition for the night came from Fox's airing of the "NASCAR Sprint Cup: Fontana," which earned a 3.6/9, about the same as a year ago. The race took up all of Fox's two-hour prime-time block.
After this, the best prime-time performer of the evening was CBS' "Amazing Race 14," which took a 2.6/6. The second hour of NBC's "Top 100 Most Outrageous Moments," at 10 p.m., poked up over the 2 rating mark, with a 2.2/5.
For the night, it was ABC with a 9.6/23; Fox, at 3.6/9; CBS, at 1.8/4; NBC, at 1.6/4; Univision, with 1.2/3; and CW with a 0.4/1.