Oscars Fall to Record Low Ratings Following Second Hostless Year

23.6 million watched; adults 18-49 demo rating falls below this year’s Grammys

the cast and crew of Parasite
The South Korean film Parasite became the first non-English language movie to win Best Picture. It received four Oscars in all during Sunday's ceremony. ABC
Headshot of Jason Lynch

Last year, the first hostless Academy Awards in three decades resulted in ratings that rose year-over-year for the first time since 2014. So ABC and the Academy elected to go without an emcee again this year—but instead of repeating 2019’s ratings growth, the 2020 telecast fell to the awards show’s lowest ratings ever.

The 92nd Oscars drew 23.6 million total viewers and a 5.3 rating in the adults 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen’s fast national ratings.

That’s a 20% decrease in total viewers and a 31% demo drop from last year’s ceremony, which was watched by 29.6 million people and had a 7.7 demo rating. The 2020 ceremony is now the lowest-rated Oscars ever, eclipsing 2018’s telecast, which had 26.5 million total viewers and a 6.8 demo rating.

The Academy Awards’ 5.3 demo rating puts it below the Grammys, which received a 5.4 demo rating two weeks ago on CBS.

The 92nd Oscars—which featured Parasite’s surprise win for Best Picture, one of four awards the South Korean film received—were held two weeks earlier than last year’s ceremony, and just a week after the Super Bowl.

Last year’s ceremony was the most-watched entertainment telecast of 2019, with a live-plus-7 audience of 30.5 million.

The Oscars is the latest entertainment awards show to see its year-over-year ratings slide in the past six months. Last month, the Grammys, which also aired earlier than usual, had 18.7 million total viewers and a 5.4 demo rating on CBS, a year-over-year drop of 6% and 4%, respectively.

A few weeks earlier, NBC’s Golden Globes had 18.3 million and a 4.7 demo rating, numbers that were off 2% and 11% from 2019. And Fox’s hostless Emmys last fall hit an all-time ratings low—plummeting 33% to 6.9 million and a 1.6 rating.

Despite the ratings falloff, Sunday was a very lucrative night for ABC, as Oscar Sunday generates more ad revenue for the network than any other day of the year, according to Kantar Media. This year’s 30-second spots sold for as much as $2.8 million, though the average rate was in the lower $2 million range. According to Kantar Media, Oscars spots in 2019 averaged $1.98 million.

ABC generated an estimated $114 million in ad revenue during last year’s ceremony, according to Kantar, with an additional $12 million coming from its red carpet show, for a total of $126 million. (That was a 14% decline from 2018, when the network brought in $147 million.)

This year’s Academy Awards advertisers included Google, whose Oscars ad showed how its Maps feature helps people find their favorite movie locations. Adobe ran a colorful, trippy ode to creativity, featuring cameos from Billie Eilish and Malala Yousafzai.

Also, Postmates took cravings to a surreal level with its new campaign that premiered during the Oscars. And The New York Times tapped actor, singer and producer Janelle Monáe to appear in its ad for The 1619 Project.

@jasonlynch jason.lynch@adweek.com Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.