The Academy Awards have been having a terrible time in recent years when it comes to television ratings. Last year, the telecast hit an all-time low, leading to the Academy, and broadcaster ABC, going into panic mode, proposing numerous changes to right the ship. However, this morning brings good news on that front, as last night's show did not set a new all-time low, but actually saw a slight uptick in viewership.
The 91st Academy Awards ended up with a 21.6/36 ratings score according to Deadline, which is good for a 14.3% increase over last year's record low. These numbers aren't final, and are just an estimate based on a few key metered markets, so the final numbers could go up or down from here, but the initial indications look like good news and it's unlikely the final numbers will be drastically different than this.
These numbers would still make last night's show the second lowest rated Oscars ever, but at this point any increase is likely to be taken as a win.
The show has been on a steady decline since 2014, which was actually the most viewed Oscar telecast this century,.
Of course, if ratings did take a jump up as it appears they have, the big question will be why that happened, so that the show can build on this success in future years.
There are a number of potential reasons. While the Academy's trials and tribulations in landing a host, an endeavor that ultimately failed, were likely a major headache, it's possible that failure was part of the show's success. People may have tuned in to see just what a show with no host would look like. If it had been an absolute train wreck, people might have wanted to see that. It wasn't.
It's also likely that Black Panther's success in being nominated for several awards, including being the first comic book superhero movie nominated for Best Picture, also helped. The disconnect between the films that are nominated for Oscars and those that actually bring in an audience at the box office has been understood since long before these current viewership problems, and the fact that the highest grossing domestic movie of 2018 was also nominated for Best Picture likely helped bridge that gap to some degree.
The other reason the ratings rise is good news is that it will likely help stave off many of the changes the Academy was considering for this year that it ultimately went back on. No awards were presented during commercials. Most of the Best Original Song nominees were performed (the one missing tune, "All the Stars" from Black Panther, was not performed only because Kendrick Lamar was unavailable), and all of last year's acting winners were back to present awards this year. This means none of these things were the reason people weren't watching in the past.
Will the Oscars go without a host in the future? While it's far too early to tell these results certainly show that doing so isn't a death sentence. We'll have to wait and see when the 92nd Academy Awards get rolling in about 10 months.
Image Courtesy ABC