Update: Oscars Ratings Rise 11 Percent

Host MacFarlane may get last laugh as ABC’s preliminary deliveries are up

Viewers may have been divided on first-time Oscars host Seth MacFarlane, but the Family Guy auteur appeared to have struck a chord with Nielsen households.

According to true fast national data for Sunday night, ABC’s presentation of the 85th Academy Awards averaged 40.3 million viewers and a 13.0 rating in the adults 18-49 demo, marking an 11 percent increase from last year’s overnight delivery (11.7).

In terms of reach, last night’s Oscars broadcast edged the 2012 edition by 1 million viewers. All told, this was the fourth most-watched Academy Awards presentation in a decade.

While Hollywood’s annual celebration of itself has always skewed female—in the past 20 years, female viewers have accounted for 62 percent of all Oscars deliveries—MacFarlane helped scare up a much younger, more boyish cohort. Adults 18-34 were up 20 percent year over year, reaching a six-year high with an 11.3 rating. Men 18-34 were up 34 percent, while men between the ages of 18 and 49 years improved 16 percent.

(For all that, Sunday night seems to have been a one-shot deal for MacFarlane. When asked via Twitter if he would consider reprising his emcee role, he replied, “No way. Lotta fun to have done it, though.”)

Deliveries peaked between 8:30 p.m. and 9 p.m. EST, when some 42.4 million viewers tuned in and ABC averaged a 13.8 in the dollar demo. But by 10:30 p.m., nearly 10 million viewers had churned away from the broadcast, as those on the East Coast began hitting the hay. Others may have simply decided that they’d seen enough of technical awards or a predictably sullen Kristen Stewart, who leant her signature brand of ennui to her presentation of the trophy for Best Production Design. 

Stuffed with song-and-dance numbers that were alternately crass (“We Saw Your Boobs”) and winning—a Charlize Theron-Channing Tatum pairing to the strains of “The Way You Look Tonight” that cast the opening minutes of the broadcast in a certain Old Hollywood light—and a cascade of zingers that sometimes failed to hit their mark, the production was buoyed by a sense of uncertainty. A surprise Best Supporting Actor nod for Django Unchained’s Christoph Waltz set the stage for a number of upsets, including Jennifer Lawrence taking the Best Actress hardware and Argo winning Best Picture.

Other victories seemed almost preordained. No one watching at around a quarter to midnight could have been surprised to see Daniel Day-Lewis claim his third Best Actor statuette for his starring turn in Lincoln, nor was there much murmuring earlier in the night when Anne Hathaway accepted the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her brief but indelible role in Les Miserables. (Hathaway gamely pretended to be surprised, but no one was buying.)

Over the past decade, deliveries for ABC’s Academy Awards broadcasts largely have been stable, with the network reaching a high-water mark in 2004 with a three-hour-and-45 minute show that averaged 43.6 million viewers and a 15.3 in the demo.

James Cameron’s Titanic in 1998 helped ABC secure the highest-rated Oscars broadcast in history, as the 77th Academy Awards delivered 57.3 million viewers. The least-watched show was the Jon Stewart-hosted 2008 affair, which drew 31.8 million viewers.

With an average unit cost of around $1.7 million per 30 seconds of airtime, the price of advertising one’s wares in last night’s broadcast was essentially flat versus the 2012 Oscars. Among the most committed brands were Hyundai, which aired seven spots, and Samsung Mobile, which was the most-tweeted advertiser, per Networked Insights.

Samsung’s six narrative spots were particularly well received, eliciting the most positive response across social media platforms. The series culminated in a 90-second ad featuring filmmaker Tim Burton, who pitches gaming developers a fictional project titled Unicorn Apocalypse: Horn of Darkness