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Final Oscar Ratings: Audiences Bailed As Show Wore On

Tuned In
The Oscars were, of course, the No. 1 show on TV last week. Yet despite having one of the year's biggest events, ABC had to settle for second place for the week among viewers under 50: It averaged a 3.3 in the demo, behind Fox's first-place 3.6. ABC did end up the most-watched network overall last week, averaging 10.7 million viewers.

Tuned Out
NBC's mid-winter slump is depressing: Last week, the Peacock averaged only 5 million viewers on any given night; its three other major broadcast rivals all averaged over 10 million. Among adults 18 to 49, things weren't much better: NBC averaged a mere 1.5 rating, more than 30 percent behind the network ranked third in that metric (CBS). The silver lining in these numbers: Fans of bubble shows such as Parks and Recreation and Community can probably relax. Parks was NBC's fourth highest-rated show with people under 50 last week, while Community was among the network's top ten in the category. Hard to see how new Peacock chief Bob Greenblatt could get rid of some of the only shows with a pulse.

Behind the Numbers
Now that final ratings are in, it's clear that this year's Oscar show was a major Nielsen disappointment for ABC. In the adults 18 to 49 demo hosts James Franco and Anne Hathaway joked about on air, Sunday's kudocast ended up as the second least-watched since Nielsen started tracking such information back in 1992 (only 2008's show did worse with folks under 50). Older men appeared to loathe the show most: Ratings were down 14 percent among dudes 25 to 54.

There's also evidence to back up the notion that the content of the show played a big role in the decline. Compare the ratings for the first half-hours of the 2010 and 2011 Oscars, and the audience is pretty much the same: This year's show started out with an 11.5 rating in adults 18 to 49 between 8:30 and 9 p.m., almost identical to last year's opening 11.7. In 2010, the Oscars added a whole bunch of viewers through the early part of the night, jumping to a 13.5 rating from 9 to 9:30 p.m., a 14.1 between 9:30 and 10 p.m., and a 14.2 from 10 to 10:30 p.m. This year? Not so much. The kudos barely budged, crawling from that opening 11.5 rating in the 8:30 half-hour to a 12.1 at 9 and a 12.3 at 9:30 p.m. Oscar then started losing viewers at 10 p.m., dropping to an 11.7 and an 11.4 at 10:30 p.m. Ratings upticked in the final half-hour as people tuned back in to find out who won for Best Picture, but not enough to prevent an overall year-to-year decline of 11 percent in the demo.