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Sunday Overnights: Oscars Dominate, but at Lower Levels

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It was all about ABC, with the 83rd annual Academy Awards averaging approximately 33.29 million viewers and a 10.6 rating/26 share among adults 18-49 from 8:30-11 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research data. Results in the 11 p.m. hour, which will likely bring the average down, were not available.

Combined with the Oscar Red Carpet Special from 7-8:30 p.m. (viewers: 24.52 million,  adults 18-49: 6.5/18—both estimated), ABC more than doubled the competing networks combined. But keep in mind that part of the earlier portion of the Red Carpet Special could include actual show coverage in the Central markets. 

As a benchmark, here is the total audience tally for the Academy Awards over the last decade, with the Best Film winner and that year’s host(s) in parentheses. At present, and this is subject to change, this is the least watched Academy Awards since No Country for Old Men snagged the Best Picture Oscar in 2008.  
 
Telecast Date: Audience Size – Best Picture (Host)
2/27/11: 33.3 million – The Kings Speech (Anne Hathaway and James Franco) – estimated
3/07/10: 41.7 million – The Hurt Locker (Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin)
2/22/09: 36.3 million – Slumdog Millionaire (Hugh Jackman)
2/24/08: 32.0 million – No Country for Old Men (Jon Stewart)
2/25/07: 40.2 million – The Departed (Ellen DeGeneres)
3/05/06: 38.9 million – Crash (Jon Stewart)
2/27/05: 42.1 million – Million Dollar Baby (Chris Rock)
2/29/04: 43.5 million - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Billy Crystal)
3/23/03: 33.0 million – Chicago (Steve Martin)
3/24/02: 41.8 million – A Beautiful Life (Whoopi Goldberg)
3/25/01: 42.9 million – Gladiator (Steve Martin)
 
Other than Best Supporting Actress winner Melissa Leo dropping the “F” bomb (and were we really all that shocked?), there were no surprises last night. The King’s Speech and Inception led the pack, with four wins each. But The King’s Speech was the standout with trophies for Best Picture, Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Director (Tom Hooper) and Best Original Screenplay by David Seidler, who was inspired to overcome his own stutter by King George, portrayed by Firth in the film. The other acting wins—Natalie Portman (Best Actress, The Swan) and Christian Bale (Supporting Actor, The Fighter)—were easy to predict.
 
Bubbly co-host Anne Hathaway tried her best but paired with awkward James Franco (which made no sense to begin with), the stage was set for a bland Oscars telecast last night. The opening montage was not funny, the quips throughout the show were lacking and Franco seemed just plain uncomfortable. Billy Crystal showing up later in the telecast only reminded us of how good he would have been back at the podium.  
 
For a complete listing of the 83rd annual Academy Award winners, click here.
 
Elsewhere, CBS finished a distant second in total viewers with 7.47 million, followed by Fox (4.15) and NBC (3.33). Fox was second in adults 18-49 (1.9/ 5), followed by CBS (1.7/ 4) and NBC (0.9/ 2). CBS aired a repeat edition of 60 Minutes, themed 60 Minutes Presents (Viewers: #2, 8.43 million; A18-49: #3, 1.2/ 4), reality/competition The Amazing Race (Viewers: #2, 7.62 million; A18-49: #2, 2.1/ 5), a repeat of Undercover Boss (Viewers: #2, 5.64 million; A18-49: #3, 1.5/ 4) and CSI: Miami (Viewers: #2, 8.18 million; A18-49: #2, 2.0/ 5). Since The Amazing Race just returned last week, the network needed to keep whatever momentum it might have going, but you have to wonder why it wasted a repeat of CSI: Miami opposite The Oscars.  
 
Fox traveled the repeat route with its animated lineup of The Simpsons (Viewers: #4, 4.02 million; A18-49: #2, 1.7/ 5), American Dad (Viewers: #4, 3.48 million; A18-49: #2, 1.6/ 5), the regularly scheduled edition of The Simpsons (Viewers: #3, 4.91 million; A18-49: #2, 2.2/ 6), recently introduced Bob’s Burgers (Viewers: #3, 3.83 million; A18-49: #3, 1.8/ 4) and a one-hour installment of Family Guy (Viewers: #3, 4.32 million; A18-49: #2, 2.0/ 5). And NBC populated the evening with Dateline at 7 p.m. (Viewers: #3, 4.70 million; A18-49: #4, 0.8/ 2), followed by . . . just what we needed! . . . three consecutive repeats of game show Minute to Win It at a mere 2.88 million viewers and a 0.9/ 2 in the demo from 8-11 p.m.