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Oscars Top 40 Million, Surge in Demos

Show draws largest audience among adults under 35 since 2005

Ratings for event programming continue to benefit from the surge in social media activity that they spur, with the Academy Awards the latest to post surprisingly hearty numbers.

Sunday’s telecast of the 85th annual Oscars on ABC rose above 40 million viewers for just the second time in six years, and also spiked among the younger adults the Academy was hoping to reach.

These numbers come on the heels of the second largest Super Bowl tune-in on record, the second largest Grammys audience in 20 years, a six-year high for the Golden Globes and year-to-year gains for the SAG Awards as well.

Nielsen estimates that the average viewership for the 85th annual Academy Awards on Sunday (40.3 million) was up 3% year-to-year for the show’s second largest audience since 2005. It also topped recent editions of the Grammy Awards on CBS as well as all series telecasts to rank as the most-watched entertainment program since the 2010 Oscars drew 41.7 million.

Among adults 18-49, this year’s 13.0 rating was up by a larger 11% vs. last year’s 11.7 and the second best in six years. Better yet, among the younger half of the key demo (adults 18-34), ratings shot up by 20% (11.3 vs. 9.4) for a six-year high.

The selection of Seth MacFarlane, the man behind animated vet “Family Guy” and last year’s comedy hit “Ted,” seemed to be just what the Academy needed. It also helped that six of the nine best-picture nominees had grossed at least $100 million at the box office before Sunday, meaning more viewers are more familiar with the films honored than in years past.

New York was again the top-rated among Nielsen’s metered markets (37.1), followed by Chicago (33.8), Boston (32.5), San Francisco (32.1) and Los Angeles (32.0).

ABC raised its price for advertising time on this year’s Oscars, to $1.7 million from a little over $1.6 million a year ago, and was expected to generate a record $85 million in revenue.

Oscar Sunday was another big night for Twitter and Facebook, according to real-time social TV insights platform Trendrr, and that no doubt helped increase viewership for ABC.

The company estimates that activity nearly tripled over last year, posting 13.3 million social interactions on the day — including 11.1 million during the on-air broadcast window. This makes it the third most-soclai TV event of the year (behind the 52 million for the Super Bowl and 17 million for the Grammys) and in the top 10 all-time.

Trendrr reported that the chatter was 58% female, and that roughly 57% of it took place on mobile phones. Singer Adele was the most mentioned star during the show (781,000), ahead of actress and Oscar winner Anne Hathaway (about 490,000), host MacFarlane (151,000) and Ben Affleck (146,000). Jennifer Lawrence generated the most activity on the red carpet (234,000).

In addition to Twitter and Facebook, Trendrr’s estimates also include usage via Get Glue and Viggle.

ABC also reported Monday that Oscar.com and the Oscar App generated substantial year-over-year growth this awards season. The number of visitors to the website since the nominations announcement in January (15.8 million) shot up by 28% over last year, and the app was downloaded 432,000 times for a 16% jump over last year.

E! expanded pre-show “Live from the Red Carpet: The 2013 Academy Awards” averaged nearly 3.7 million viewers (including 1.9 million adults 18-49) — the most-watched such show in network history and the largest delivery in the key demo in 11 years. This year’s show (5:30-8:30 p.m. ET), hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Giuliana Rancic,  grew 3% in total viewers and 8% in 18-49 vs. last year.

As is usually the case, the only original programming on the Big Four opposite the Oscars was CBS reality show “The Amazing Race,” which drew a 1.8/4 in 18-49 and 6.8 million viewers overall — down about 25% from its premiere of last week and a new low for the veteran skein. (“Race” saw a decline from its first half-hour to its second, coinciding with the start of the Oscars, and figures to see substantial gains once all DVR playback is counted.)

“60 Minutes” kicked off the night for CBS (1.3/4 in 18-49, 8.3 million viewers overall), and following “Amazing Race,” the net aired special repeats of “The Mentalist” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 4.4 million viewers overall) and “The Good Wife” (0.6/1 in 18-49, 3.3 million viewers overall).

Fox was led by encores of “The Simpsons” (1.6/4 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall) and “Family Guy” (1.5/3 in 18-49, 3.1 million viewers overall), the latter of which was created by the Oscar host.

NBC was steady throughout the night with “Dateline” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 4.1 million viewers overall) and repeats of “Betty White’s Off Their Rockers” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 3.3 million viewers overall for its hour) and “SNL in the 2000’s: Time and Again” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 1.9 million viewers overall).

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