The fates aligned for the Academy Awards this year. The annual event was facing global controversy due to a perceived whitewashing of its nominations. But the Academy was lucky enough to book Chris Rock as its host for the 88th annual telecast, assuring that people would tune in to hear how the blisteringly funny comedian would rake the film industry over the coals.

Only, fewer people tuned in to the Oscars than expected, and the show posted its lowest number in years. As reported by Variety, the Oscar telecast "averaged a still-big 23.4 household rating/36 share from 8:30 to midnight ET, down 6% from last year’s 25.0/38 and 16% below the 10-year high of 27.9/41 from two years ago. The previous low-water mark in the overnights came in 2008 when the Jon Stewart-hosted Oscars delivered a 21.9/33. That show ended up averaging 32 million viewers, which is the smallest on record, according to Nielsen."

Not good company to keep. So, what happened? Leonardo DiCaprio had backing, and we assumed people really wanted to hear Chris Rock’s opinions on #OscarsSoWhite. Here are some theories about why the Oscars pulled a record-low rating in the overnights:

Race Controversy
The call for a boycott worked
Shortly after the nominations were unveiled, some celebrities – the loudest being Jada Pinkett Smith – called for a boycott of the Oscars. That never really materialized IRL, but it could have translated into more people choosing to watch something else on Sunday night. People who might have been disappointed by the Academy’s lack of diversity didn’t need to hit the streets in protest. But a very simple way to send a message that you were upset by the lack of diversity in the Oscar acting categories would be to change the channel, and not give the Academy your viewership number. That appears to have happened on Sunday night.
Image Credit: ABC/Adam Taylor

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