Show was season's most-watched telecast

The kudocast comeback of 2007 continued Sunday night with the Oscars, which gained about 1 million viewers vs. the previous year.

After both the most recent Golden Globes and Grammy shows delivered year-to-year ratings gains, ABC’s coverage of the 79th annual Academy Awards joined the parade, coming in as the season’s most-watched entertainment telecast.

Even though American viewers were unfamiliar with many of the nominated films and the top awards were handed out after midnight Eastern Time, a Stateside aud averaging 39.9 million viewers watched Sunday’s Oscars — up over the 38.9 million for last year’s show, which had drawn the second-smallest audience in 18 years.

Host Ellen DeGeneres seemed to especially boost female viewership, with this year’s 16.2 rating in women 18-34 a big 15% increase over last year’s 14.1.

The only other year since 1988 in which the Academy Awards failed to average 40 million viewers came in 2003, as the year “Chicago” took the top prize produced the smallest aud on record for the show, 33 million.

While the 39.9 million makes it the television’s season’s biggest draw (excluding sports), Oscar’s showing in adults 18-49 (14.0 rating, repping 18.3 million viewers in the age bracket) ranks fourth — behind three episodes of Fox’s “American Idol.”

This year’s 14.0 preliminary 18-49 rating is up a tick from last year’s 13.9 and down 7% from two years ago (15.1). But in adults 18-34, the kudocast was up 8% year to year (12.9 to 12.0) for its best score in five years.

Looking at the local markets, Chicago set the pace with a 36.0 rating/54 share, followed by San Francisco (35.3/57), New York (33.9/52), Los Angeles (29.9/47) and San Diego (29.8/45). San Fran saw the biggest year-to-year gains, rising 11% (from 31.8/57).

Final national ratings for the Oscars, as well as the Barbara Walters spec and 30-minute “Countdown to Oscars” spec that also aired on ABC, will be issued by Nielsen today.

Sunday’s highest-rated firstrun counterprogramming was CBS’ “The Amazing Race” (2.9/6 in 18-49, 8.2 million viewers overall). Pretty much everything else on the broadcast webs was a repeat.

On cable, E! again scored with its “Live From the Red Carpet” show from 6 to 8 p.m. ET. Spec, featuring Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana DePandi, averaged a 3.94 household rating in Nielsen’s metered-market overnights — up 47% over last year’s 2.81.

These numbers rep one of the net’s Nielsen perfs to date, easily topping the pre-shows this year for the Golden Globes (2.07), Grammys (1.86) and SAG Awards (1.35 million).

TV Guide Channel’s red-carpet spec featuring Joan and Melissa Rivers averaged a 1.0 household rating in the overnights, up from a 0.9 a year ago.

In latenight, a special Academy Awards edition of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC (12:15-1:15 a.m. ET) scored a 4.2 household rating/16 share in Nielsen’s metered-market overnights, up 20% from its first post-Oscar airing a year ago (3.5/12).

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