Twitter, critics, and low-grossing movies be damned: The 2012 Oscars did very well with actual viewers. Per Nielsen, Sunday’s Billy Crystal–hosted kudos drew 39.3 million showbiz rubberneckers to ABC, a healthy rebound from last year’s disappointing 37.6 million tune-in. And lest you think all of that tune-in was for old folks happy to see Crystal’s return, this year’s show matched last year’s 11.7 rating among adults 18 to 49 (which is both good and bad, considering last year’s demo ratings were a disappointment).
Online pundits who figured the show’s slow pacing and lack of big movies would turn off audiences were proven wrong by these numbers. And yet, it’s not a total triumph for the Academy: This will be the first year in recent memory that the Oscars won’t be TV’s No. 1 awards show. CBS’s broadcast of the Grammys earlier this month brought in a few more viewers (a total of 39.9 million) and skewed much younger (a 14.1 rating with folks under 50). It’ll also be interesting to see how viewership ebbed and flowed during the night; ABC won’t release half-hour by half-hour data until tomorrow. Still, ABC and the Academy can both breathe a sigh of relief that there was no Oscar collapse this year, while quietly hoping that The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises somehow snag a whole bunch of noms next year.