Speed Reads

2021 Oscars

Oscars viewership plunges to an all-time low

The ratings are in for Sunday's Academy Awards, and they're about as disastrous as expected.

An average of 9.85 million viewers tuned into the Oscars on Sunday, down significantly from 23.6 million viewers in 2020, according to Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. These numbers from Nielsen are preliminary, but at the moment, this is the first time in history the Oscars failed to draw more than 10 million viewers.

Last year's 23.6 million viewers for the Academy Awards, which was the previous all-time low, was already considered a disappointing showing. As recently as 2014, CNN notes, the Oscars managed to pull in over 40 million viewers.

But it had been widely anticipated that the Oscars' viewership would tank this year, considering previous awards shows also saw significant ratings declines amid the pandemic. The 2021 Golden Globes drew only 6.9 million viewers, down from over 18 million the year before, and the Grammys also lost about 10 million viewers. Viewership for awards shows has generally been in decline for years — although the 2019 Oscars unexpectedly improved in the ratings — but the plunges have been far more dramatic during the pandemic.

Sunday's Oscars saw Nomadland, an unusually small movie to become an Oscar frontrunner, take the Academy Award for Best Picture following a year in which many splashy movie releases were delayed as theaters closed. It was an intimate ceremony, with a relatively small audience gathering in person. Producers also sought to change things up with numerous format tweaks, not making much use of clips of the nominated films or comedic monologues, though the telecast ultimately drew mixed reviews.

As theaters re-open, the Academy can expect a number of major movies, including Steven Spielberg's West Side Story, to possibly be in contention for next year's Oscars, which could help the show bounce back in the ratings. Certainly, the total number of viewers can't get much lower than this — right?