“The English Patient” may have dominated the hearts of Academy members, but it didn’t have the same ef-fect on TV viewers as ABC’s telecast of the 69th annual Academy Awards posted the lowest ratings in more than 10 years and the second-lowest numbers on record.
Monday night’s telecast also marked the second consecutive year the ratings for the Academy Awards has fallen. According to Nielsen, the three-hour and 37-minute broadcast posted a 27.4 rating and 46 share in households, down 10% from last year’s 30.3 rating and 50 share when Whoopi Goldberg hosted and “Braveheart” won best picture. On the plus side for ABC, the telecast was the highest-rated non-sports programming event this season and, as expected, cleaned up in all demo categories. That, of course, is usually the case.
Historically, the telecast was the lowest rated since 1986’s broadcast, which averaged a 27.3/43. That year, “Out of Africa” was voted best picture. Since 1985, only four telecasts have averaged more than a 30 rating.
Despite the lower than average ratings, from a business standpoint, ABC cleaned up. A 30-second spot on the Os-carcast went for $830,000 and 43 units were sold. Also, ABC does not guarantee a rating performance for the night and sponsors line up for the event.
Although the show ran long, it appears that ABC’s telecast was hurt as much by a poor lead-in from its traditional Barbara Walters special (which followed the awards show on the west coast) as it was the length of the telecast or unfamiliarity of many of the nominees to TV viewers.
‘Barbara’ suffers, too
The “Barbara Walters Special” averaged a 14.5 rating and 24 share, its lowest Oscar night rating ever. This year’s interviews were Woody Harrelson, Harrison Ford and Lauren Bacall. That performance set the stage for the awards show. The first half-hour of the broadcast, usually very strong, posted a 26.3/40, rising steadily throughout the night.
The other networks battled for whatever viewers weren’t tied down to the Oscars, with NBC posting a 6.5/10, fol-lowed by CBS’ 6.2/10 and Fox’s 6.1/9. Interestingly, CBS was up 72% compared to its numbers last year against the Oscars while NBC was down 31% and Fox was off 18%.