LOS ANGELES – For the film industry, which was already struggling to hold its place at the center of American culture, Nielsen’s ratings for Sunday night’s 93rd Academy Awards were a blow: around 9.85 million people watched the broadcast, a 58% drop. from last year’s record low.
Among adults aged 18 to 49, the demographic that many advertisers pay a premium to reach, the Oscars suffered an even steeper drop of 64%, according to preliminary data from Nielsen released on Monday. Nielsen’s final numbers are due Tuesday and will include out-of-home viewing and some streaming statistics.
The Academy of Cinema Arts and Sciences declined to comment.
The academy was preparing for a sharp drop in grades. The Awards struggled during the pandemic, and the Oscars have been on a downward trajectory for years. But some academy officials had hoped Sunday’s telecast could still crack 10 million viewers and draw up to 15 million.
Humiliating? Certainly. But hundreds of millions of dollars are also at stake.
Under a long-term licensing deal with ABC, which is owned by Disney, the academy is expected to raise around $ 900 million between 2021 and 2028 for worldwide broadcast rights to the Oscars. Funds are crucial for the academy’s operations, especially at a time when it is spending to open a museum in Los Angeles. But some of that money is at risk. Payments to the academy include a guarantee and then revenue sharing if certain ad sales thresholds are met.
ABC has so far managed to keep advertising rates high due to the fragmentation of television viewing. Oscar night may be a shadow of itself, but so too is the rest of network television; the ceremony is still one of the most important televised events of the year. According to media buyers, Google, General Motors, Rolex and Verizon spent about $ 2 million for each 30-second spot in Sunday’s broadcast, down slightly from prices last year. ABC said Thursday it had exhausted its inventory.
ABC does not guarantee audience size for Oscar advertisers, thereby removing any potential for so-called “make-goods” products (additional commercial time at a later date) to compensate for low ratings.
Some people in the entertainment industry, whether out of optimism or denial or both, believe that rewards are going through a temporary downturn – that drop in ratings for mainstays like the Emmys ( a 30-year low) and the Screen Actors Guild Awards (down 52 percent) reflect the pandemic, not a paradigm shift. Without a live audience, the shows were drained of their energy. Big studios have also postponed big movies, leaving this year’s awards circuit to little-seen fine art films.
The most nominated film on Sunday was “Mank”. He received 10 nods. Polls before the show indicated that most Americans had never heard of it, let alone watched it, despite its availability on Netflix. “Mank,” a love letter to Old Hollywood from David Fincher, won the award for production design and cinematography.
Still, the Oscars have been on a decline since 1998, when 57.2 million people tuned in to see the “Titanic” take the Best Picture victory.
Many factors affected the ratings, starting with the delivery route. Old broadcast networks like ABC are no longer as relevant, especially for young people. (The Game Awards, which celebrates the best video games of the year and aired on platforms like YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter, is a growing awards show.)
In many cases, analysts say, broadcasts are too long for contemporary attention span. Sunday’s ceremony was one of the shortest in years, and it still lasted 3 hours 19 minutes. Why go through all of this when you can catch snippets on Twitter? Video from the ceremony showing Glenn Close twerking to “Da Butt” on Sunday went viral.
Increasingly, ceremonies are less about entertainment honors and more about civic issues and progressive politics, which inevitably annoys half the audience. Regina King, former Oscar winner and director of “One Night in Miami”, recognized him at the top of the series.
“I know a lot of you around the house want to reach for your remote when you feel like Hollywood is preaching to you,” she said. “But as a mother of a black son, I know the fear that so many people live with, and no fame or fortune changes that.” Half a dozen laureates followed her and spoke on issues such as racial justice and police brutality.
The rewards show that fatigue is also a factor. There are at least 18 televised ceremonies each year, including the Grammys (down 53%) and the Golden Globes (down 62%). Yet the fall in Oscar ratings in recent years has been more dramatic, and the Grammys are fast becoming the most-watched awards show, once an inconceivable notion. It had nearly 9 million viewers for its telecast last month.
The academy itself played a role in the show’s demise, lamenting efforts to make it more relevant (hastily announcing a new category honoring “popular” film achievements, then backtracking) and by refusing ABC’s plea to reduce the number of Oscars shown on the show. .
Sunday, the debates were particularly low-key – almost the opposite of an awards ceremony under a large tent. The best interpretations of songs have been transferred to the pre-show. Film clips have been reduced. Comedy pieces were rare. A long section of the show was devoted to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charity that provides housing and health care to Hollywood seniors.
An academy spokeswoman said Oscar producers were not available on Monday to discuss their decisions.