Despite One of the Craziest Moments in Oscars History, the Telecast Drew Its Second Lowest Ratings

32.9 million viewers, smallest 18-49 audience in at least 2 decades

The best picture blunder came too late to boost the Academy Awards' audience.
ABC/Eddy Chen

Perhaps the craziest moment in Oscars history—Faye Dunaway announcing the wrong winner for best picture, giving the trophy briefly to La La Land before it was ultimately awarded to the rightful winner, Moonlight—came too late in the ceremony to help boost the ratings for this year’s Academy Awards telecast, which fell 4 percent from last year’s show.

Only 32.9 million viewers watched the 89th Annual Academy Awards hosted by Jimmy Kimmel on ABC Sunday night, according to Nielsen’s final ratings. Last year’s Chris Rock-hosted telecast had an audience of 34.4 million. It’s the second lowest-rated Academy Awards telecast since 1974, which is as far back as Nielsen has telecast data. Only the 2008 ceremony, which drew 32 million, had lower ratings.

And its 9.1 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds is off 13 percent from last year’s 10.5, which already was the smallest 18-49 Oscars audience in at least two decades.

Despite the falling ratings, the show is still likely to end up as the year’s most-watched entertainment telecast. Last year’s ceremony was the fourth most-watched telecast of 2016, behind only Super Bowl 50, the Super Bowl postgame and Game 7 of the World Series and ahead of the NBC Summer Olympics prime-time telecasts.

The ceremony outrated January’s Golden Globes on NBC (20.0 million total viewers and a 5.5 demo rating) and the Grammys on CBS earlier this month (26.1 million total viewers; 7.8 demo rating)

While Kantar Media estimated that the average cost for a 30-second Oscars spot was between $1.9 million and $2 million, ABC wrote 30-second spots for as high as $2.5 million. This year’s Academy Awards advertisers included Walmart, Cadillac and The New York Times, whose ad got a boost from Donald Trump’s Twitter feed earlier in the day.

Oscar Sunday generates more ad revenue for ABC than any other day of the year, according to Kantar Media. Last year, ABC brought in $102 million in Oscars ad revenue, which jumped to $115 million when including its pre-Oscars show.

ABC will be able to count on that revenue for the next decade after the network signed an extension last summer with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.