The Oscars lays 18.7 million viewers at ABC’s feet

Dennis Da-ala Mirilla
Oscars, swimming with the tide lays 18.7 million viewers on ABC's feet

Viewership for last weekend’s Academy Awards (the Oscars) rose by 12 per cent from last year, bringing the total number of viewers when it aired on ABC to 18.7 million, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC network, which airs the show said.

The media conglomerate didn’t say how much it made from advertising this year, but “last year, it collected about $139 million across 70 commercials, and in 2021, it pulled in $129 million across 56 ads. The red carpet preshow brings in roughly $16 million annually,” according to the New York Times.

After a long run as the second most watched television event in American TV for years, just behind the Super Bowl, viewership for the Oscars live show began to tank, dropping below 30 million for the first time in 2018, according to Nielsen records.

In 2018, the Oscars saw 26.5 million viewers. At its peak in 1998, it brought in 55 million viewers for ABC. Viewership maintained a steady 20-plus million mark in 2019 and 2020 but fell to 9.85 million in 2021, the lowest number ever, at the peak of the pandemic and 16.6 million just last year. the second-lowest viewership number for the Oscars ever.

Oscars, swimming with the tide lays 18.7 million viewers on ABC's feet
Michelle Yeoh, a Malaysian actress won in the big Best Actress category. Image source: Getty images

The decline in viewership has not happened in isolation. The 95-year-old award event, one of the most prestigious awards film professionals can receive in the world, has faced criticism of being skewed towards celebrating actors and movies that promote eurocentric ideals. The hashtag #OscarSoWhite, protesting the marginalization of actors of colour, came to a head in 2021 following the death of George Floyd, who was killed by police officers, triggering a racial reckoning across corporate industries in America.

Read also: 5 Nollywood movies that give you a sense of Nigeria’s political scene

The award event has also faced criticism of being out of touch with cinematic behaviour for its roaster of nominations, which critics say misses the mark. They say that by celebrating movies without a wide appeal and niche audiences, the award show is alienating a huge array of film aficionados.

The Oscars have been taking measures to quell the criticism. In 2021, it invited 395 new members, 46 per cent of whom were women, and 39 per cent were people of colour. Currently, 33 per cent of the Academy’s overall members identify as women, and 19 per cent are from underrepresented ethnic or racial communities.

This year’s slate of nominees also included a diverse array of actors from different backgrounds and countries. Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh won in the big Best Actress category.

Oscars, swimming with the tide lays 18.7 million viewers on ABC's feet
Oscar host, Jimmy Kimmel. Image source: Getty Images

This year, performances nominated also came from a broad stroke of blockbuster movies, including, for the first time, a movie from the Marvel Universe with the actress Angela Bassett’s nomination in the Best Actress in a Supporting Role category for her role as Queen Ramonda in movie Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

Other blockbuster movies that snug nominations this year included Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water, Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, The Batman and Everything Everywhere All At Once, which made over $100 million at the global box office and played in cinema for months.

Jimmy Kimmel returned this year as the host after snagging the gig in 2017 and 2018.

This year’s ceremony also included performances from a-list musicians Rihanna and Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga performed Hold My Hand from the movie Top Gun: Maverick and Rihanna, who only a few weeks ago performed at the Super Bowl halftime show, performed her hit, Lift Me Up from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

“The whole atmosphere, the whole environment we wanted to create was, ‘Let’s break this down into what this really is — a passionate love letter to the movies.’ This show was really about us saying, ‘Here is a great industry full of really great storytellers,’” Oscars producer Glenn Weiss told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview after the show.

Oscars, swimming with the tide lays 18.7 million viewers on ABC's feet
Rihanna performs at the Oscars. image source: Getty Images

“What we wanted to do was go out and execute a show that people would really like and a show people would talk about. We think we did accomplish that. I sure hope that (Monday) delivers good news in the ratings front, but either way, I think it was a successful evening,” he added.


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