After a thrilling night watch history unfold at the 2020 Oscars in between epic musical numbers and cheeky presenter commentary, we’re faced with the cold, hard ratings from Sunday night’s big show. Turns out, the star power of Brad Pitt, Laura Dern, or Bong Joon Ho and the Parasite cast was not enough to reel in viewers across the nation for the ABC telecast — and that could spell big trouble for the Oscars and ABC alike going forward.
According to Variety, this year’s Oscars telecast hit an all-time low with viewership numbers coming in at 23.6 million. That number represents a 20% (a.k.a. 6 million) dip from the Oscars viewership numbers in 2019. This year’s Oscars also scored a 5.3 rating among the key 18-49 viewer demographic, which marks a 31% drop from 2019. For reference, last year’s Oscars brought in 29.6 million viewers and scored a 7.7 rating among the 18-49 demo. The viewership number in particular represent a 12% raise from 2018’s numbers, somehow making the 2020 numbers all the more disappointing.
It’s difficult to figure out a pathology on why the viewership numbers and ratings have dropped so dramatically since last year. To be fair, damn near every televised awards show has been experiencing drops from year-to-year and, as a result, new lows in 2020. This year’s Grammys telecast reached just 18.7 million viewers and the Golden Globes had 18.3 million viewers. As such, this year’s Oscar ratings could be just one more part of a sweeping trend in a world where folks are cutting cords and getting the TL;DR on winners and losers online rather than watching in real time. It’s also possible certain aspects of this year’s Oscars — be it the movies nominated, the musical guests chosen to present, the no-host of it all, or something else entirely — may have kept viewers at a distance.
In light of this, it’s possible we could see the Academy and ABC put their heads together over the next year to figure out how to get those viewers back. After the 2018 Oscars, both parties did exactly that, implementing tweaks to the show’s format and categories in an push to appeal more broadly to viewers. As previously mentioned, it worked when 2019’s numbers swung upward from 2018’s; could the Academy and ABC pull it off once more for the 2021 Oscars?