The Oscars telecast suffered another major dip in viewership this year, with early ratings suggesting a 58% drop.
The ceremony, which saw on-the-road drama Nomadland pick up the top prize, was watched by 9.85 million Americans, down from 23.6 million in 2020, according to preliminary Nielsen numbers. That year, which was led by a historic win for Parasite, was already the least watched televised ceremony ever for the Academy.
It was an unusual evening, heavily affected by the pandemic, with a more modest guest list and venue, with many nominees only appearing via video. It was co-produced by Steven Soderbergh, who decided to make some major and controversial changes with both structure and style. When asked about ratings earlier this month, he expressed indifference.
“We’re worrying about things that we can control and that’s not on that list,” he told the Hollywood Reporter. “We’re just making something that we would want to see, that we would think is a good show, because if you’re doing anything other than that, you’re second guessing and you’re lost.”
His production scored middling reviews from critics, with Vanity Fair’s Richard Lawson writing that it contained “more languor than pizzaz” and Variety’s Caroline Framke suggesting that “rearranging the metaphorical furniture isn’t the compelling twist that is going to bring them back”.
Due to semi-shuttered cinemas, Nomadland, which went directly to Hulu as well as a handful of US screens, is set to be the lowest-grossing best picture winner for decades. A recent survey also showed that audiences were less familiar with the nominees than normal with just 35% of those asked having awareness of Nomadland, for instance.
The night’s big acting awards were given to Frances McDormand, Daniel Kaluuya, Youn Yuh-jung and Anthony Hopkins, who wasn’t able to give a winner’s speech.
The news follows on from similarly dramatic falls for other pandemic-era award shows. Last year’s Emmys were the lowest ever with a 12% drop, this year’s Golden Globes fell around 60% while the Grammys were down 53% year on year.