Oscar ratings still in the doldrums despite snafu drama

Stephen Battaglio
Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles — Even the biggest snafu in Academy Awards history could not snap the ABC telecast out if its recent ratings slump.

Nielsen showed that the 89th Academy Awards was watched by an average of 32.9 million viewers Sunday. The figure is down 4.5 percent from last year when the telecast averaged 34.47 million viewers. It’s the third consecutive year that ratings for Hollywood’s biggest night declined and failed to hit the 40 million-viewer mark.

Viewers and the audience inside the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood were stunned when the best picture statuette was mistakenly given to the producers of “La La Land” after presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given the wrong envelope. A chaotic scene ensued on stage as the award went to “Moonlight” before the telecast signed off.

But while the debacle may go down as one of the wildest moments ever seen on an Oscars telecast, it did not even count toward the ratings.

That’s because the best picture award was presented — and re-presented — after Nielsen’s measurement of the Oscars telecast ended at 12:02 a.m. Eastern when ABC aired its last commercial break of the night.

The late end time for the telecast also likely depressed the size of the audience. The Academy Awards end time was the latest since 2002, when it ended at 12:34 a.m. Eastern. Last year’s telecast ended at 11:51 p.m. Eastern.

The highest-rated markets for the telecast were New York with a 31.1 rating, followed by San Diego (30.7), Los Angeles (30.5), Chicago (30.5) and San Francisco (30.3).

The ratings continue a trend in which Oscar ratings have declined as more nominations go to smaller-budget films instead of big studio hits.

It’s the smallest audience since 2008, when the award for best picture went to “No Country for Old Men.”