Still, kudocast holds relatively well among young adults

One year after expanding the best-pic category to 10 films, ratings for the Academy Awards remained strong despite showing some declines.

An average aud of 37.6 million tuned in to ABC’s telecast Sunday, off 10% from last year’s 41.7 million, which repped a five-year high, but ahead of both 2009 (36.3 million) and the record low of 2008 (32.0 million). This is a larger aud than anything but football these days, towering over the top-rated seg of this season’s “American Idol” on Fox (26.2 million) as well as the second most popular kudocast (the Grammys on CBS drew 26.7 million).

And a somewhat calculated decision by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to go for a younger audience with 20-something thesp hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway seems to have paid off: The Oscars were down just 5% in adults 18-34 (10.6 vs. 11.1). Ratings fell off in the 12%-13% range in other categories including adults 18-49 (11.7 vs. a 13.3 last year), 25-54 (13.2 vs. 15.2) and 50-plus (19.8 vs. 22.5).

This year’s list of Oscar nominees recognized an unusually diverse crop of specialty titles (“The King’s Speech” and “Black Swan”) and B.O. powerhouses (“Inception” and “Toy Story 3″) — a byproduct of the expanded best pic category; in all, five of the best-pic nominees have topped $100 million domestically.

Still, there was nothing approaching the B.O. bounty of last year’s “Avatar,” which holds the all-time North America record for box office receipts and was a big factor in last year’s ratings surge.

The preliminary national household rating/share for this year’s Oscars was a 21.1/33 — down 9% from last year’s 23.3/37.

New York reclaimed its title as the top-rated local market (33.9 household rating), edging out Chicago (33.0), with Gotham up 14% from last year (when a battle between ABC station WABC and Cablevision kept the kudocast off the screens in roughly 3 million homes at the start of the show) and the Windy City down 12%.

Other markets in which more than 30% of households were tuned in to the Oscars were: San Francisco-Oakland (33.6), Kansas City (32.7), Boston (32.0), Denver (31.2), host city Los Angeles (30.8) and neighbor San Diego (30.3).

Advertiser demand was strong for this year’s Academy Awards, with ABC reporting more than two weeks before the telecast that it had sold all available spots. And with each 30-second spot fetching roughly $1.7 million, the network was able to collect more than $80 million in revenue.

From 8 to 8:30 p.m. ET, ABC’s “Oscar’s Red Carpet Live” averaged a preliminary 26.4 million viewers, the spec’s largest aud since 2007. And E! scored the most-watched “Live from the Red Carpet” in the net’s history from 6 to 8 p.m., with its nearly 4 million viewers outperforming last year’s delivery by 9% to become one of the net’s 10 most-watched telecasts ever.

Following the Oscars, a special “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC averaged about 4.5 million viewers, including 1.75 million in the 18-49 demo — the second best post-Oscar “JKL” in the last four years. Featuring special appearances by Jessica Alba, Eva Longoria, Kelly Ripa, Minka Kelly and Sofia Vergara, it was up slightly vs. last year in women 18-34.

ABC also noted that preliminary data showed a 29% increase in viewers vs. last year on Oscar.com and the Oscar Backstage Pass App.

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