More than 39 million people watched the Oscars Sunday night on ABC, an increase of 1.4 million over the Oscar numbers a year earlier, the network announced Monday.
But with an average viewership of 39.3 million from 8:30 p.m. to 11:34 p.m. (7:30-10:34c), the annual movieland awards telecast fell short of another high-profile awards show, the music industry’s Grammy Awards Feb. 12 that drew 41 million viewers on CBS.
ABC was rightfully jubilant over the ratings results, especially since some observers predicted this year’s telecast would not rate as highly as some previous shows, largely because none of the nominated films had achieved blockbuster status.
(Indeed, the evening’s Best Picture, “The Artist,” is considered an “art-house” film by many and has not exactly broken records at the box office.)
In announcing the numbers, the network noted the telecast’s strength among viewers 18-49, the demographic group ABC craves. And the announcement emphasized how well the network did over its entire night of Oscar-related programming — from its pre-Oscar arrival show, through the actual awards show and then the late-night special edition of “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that followed with special guest Oprah Winfrey.
All told, ABC said, ““Oscar programming on Sunday reached an estimated 76.0 million unique television viewers across the U.S. [which ABC defined as] unduplicated viewers 2 years or older watching for six minutes or more during the broadcast.” On its own, the Kimmel show drew 5.061 million, up from 4.453 million a year earlier, ABC said.
Why the Grammy Awards numbers are significant: While 39.3 million viewers represents a great night for any TV network, it is interesting to us that the Grammys came out ahead this year (due in part, unfortunately, to music star Whitney Houston’s untimely death that same weekend). Why? Because for many years, the Oscars had the distinction of holding second place in any list of annual blockbuster broadcasts on network TV — second only to the Super Bowl (which now gets well over 100 million viewers). Traditionally, the Grammys weren’t even close.
With the Oscars falling behind the Grammys this year, it might be worth asking if the movie industry has now fallen behind the music industry as the top dog in entertainment.