Hugh-mungous? Oscar 2009 ratings solidly up

02.23.09 9 years ago

Mark J. Terrill/AP

Although the Academy may have failed to recognize the year’s biggest blockbusters, Oscar ratings were up for Sunday (Feb. 22) night’s telecast. 

The Academy Awards, dominated by “Slumdog Millionaire,” drew 36.3 million viewers, based on Nielsen Fast National figures. That’s up from the 32 million who watched last year’s “No Country For Old Men”-fueled Oscar ceremony.

In addition to passing the “American Idol” premiere as the season’s most watched entertainment telecast to date, the Oscars also ranked as the year’s highest rated show in the key 18-49 demographic, with a 12.1 rating, up from a 10.7 rating last year.

While many pundits had claimed that the Academy’s snubbing of “The Dark Knight” in a slew of major categories would produce a hefty backlash, ABC boasts that the telecast was up 22 percent among men 18-34.

Were viewers lured by host Hugh Jackman’s song-and-dance showmanship?

Were they intrigued by the posthumous Oscar win by “Dark Knight” baddie Heath Ledger?

Did they hear rumors about appearances by “Twilight” star Robert Pattinson and several “High School Musical” favorites?

It’s difficult to know for sure.

It would also be wise not to get excessively pleased with those ratings. 

Yes, an increase of 4.3 million viewers in a year where naysayers were projecting a prohibitive drop is cause for enthusiasm, especially given the droopy ratings for other recent award shows.

Even still, the 2009 Oscar telecast can now celebrate being the third least-watched in the past 35 years. The only shows to draw fewer viewers were the 2003 “Chicago” coronation and last year. This year couldn’t compete with the 2007 “Departed” show, which drew 40-plus million, much less the 1998 “Titanic” record-breaker, which averaged more than 55 million viewers.

The Oscars still remain the gold standard for TV award shows. The 2008 Emmy telecast drew 24 million, still better than the average viewership for the 2009 Golden Globes (21.4 million) and the 2009 Grammy Awards (17.3 million).

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