The 92nd Academy Awards drew an average of 23.6 million viewers for ABC on Sunday – a new low for Hollywood’s biggest night.
The awards show saw a decrease of 20% from last year’s show, which brought in 29.6 million viewers. The previous low was 2018’s telecast, which drew in an average 26.5 million viewers.
The low ratings for one of the entertainment world’s biggest nights are still higher than most programs on television, but hardly ideal. Just six years ago, the awards show brought in more than 40 million viewers.
A number of factors were at play, from the show’s length to the array of other entertainment options viewers can choose from. It probably didn’t help that some of the year’s biggest blockbusters like “Avengers: Endgame” didn’t win any major awards.
The Oscars’ low ratings follows the trend with other award shows like the Grammys and the Emmys, which have taken viewership hits recently.
This year’s Oscars also felt bloated at times, which could have caused some viewers to tune out as the show dragged into its third hour, 33 minutes longer than scheduled.
“The 92nd annual Academy Awards quickly lost its own plot amid a million distractions courtesy of ABC’s frenetic, often baffling production decisions,” Caroline Framke, a TV critic for Variety, wrote. “For about half the broadcast, the Oscars felt like a train that got jogged off its tracks.”
Other critics were not sold on the ceremony’s choice to go host-free for the second straight year.
“Like the Emmys back in the fall, this year’s Oscars were a roller coaster of bizarre producing and directing decisions, a few of which paid entertainment dividends, but most of which contributed to a kudocast that ran far over the allotted three hours,” wrote Daniel Fienberg, a TV critic for the Hollywood Reporter.
Fienberg added that the 2019 show “flowed reasonably well without a host,” but it’s becoming clear that last year’s success was closer to “dumb luck than a conclusive statement on the value, or lack thereof, of emcees at awards shows.”
Despite the glaring ratings drop, Sunday night was a historical one for Hollywood, thanks to “Parasite” taking home best picture. The South Korean thriller, directed by Bong Joon Ho, is the first non-English film and first South Korean film to win for best picture.
The ceremony also included other highlights such as multiple musical numbers and an opening monologue from Steve Martin and Chris Rock. Big names won major awards, including Brad Pitt taking home best supporting actor for his role in “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” and Joaquin Phoenix winning best actor for his performance in “Joker.”