Oscar Ratings: Big Dip for This Year’s Academy Awards (UPDATED)

Academy Awards 2015
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP
Academy Awards 2015

Birdman may have won best picture at the Oscars on Sunday night, but TV audiences flew the coop.

According to time-corrected fast national Nielsen ratings, the 87th Annual Academy Awards viewership dropped 17% from 2014’s show, averaging 36.6 million viewers—down from last year’s 43.7 million. It was the least-watched Oscars since 2009, when 36.3 million tuned in (Slumdog Millionaire won the best picture prize).

The 2015 telecast averaged a 10.8 rating among adults 18-49, down from a 12.9 rating last year (when 12 Years a Slave won best picture). That still means this year’s Oscarcast ranks as TV’s top entertainment telecast overall in a year—since last year’s telecast on March 2, 2014.

The dip seen too much of a surprise. As has been widely noted, this year’s batch of top Oscar contenders have been little-seen by the broader public. Birdman has grossed $38 million at the box office, making it the second-lowest best picture winner since 1978, according to Box Office Mojo (behind only 2009’s The Hurt Locker, which made $17 million).

Neil Patrick Harris hosted this year’s telecast, which clocked in at 3 hours and 38 minutes.

The most-watched Oscars in modern times remains the 1998 telecast, when 55.2 million viewers watched Titanic win. The lowest was 2008, when 32 million (No Country for Old Men won that year) tuned in.

In social media, Nielsen reports that 13 million people saw 5.9 million tweets about the Oscars on Sunday. These tweets were sent by 1.4 million people and generated 801.3 million Twitter TV impressions. The most-tweeted about minute occurred at 11:21/10:21c (60,044 Tweets during the minute) during Lady Gaga’s Sound of Music tribute and Julie Andrews’ appearance.

According to overnight ratings in 56 top Nielsen markets, the 2015 Academy Awards telecast averaged a 25.0 household rating and 38 share. That’s down from last year’s 27.9/41, as well as 2013’s 26.1/14. Among Adults 18-49 in Nielsen’s LPM (Local People Meter) markets, the show averaged a 14.2 rating and 36 share, down from last year’s 16.2/39.

Actual “Fast National Ratings” from Nielsen will be delivered later today, giving a better snapshot of Total Viewers and Adult 18-49 rating for the broadcast.

The top five high-rated markets for the 2015 Academy Awards were Los Angeles (33.5 rating), Chicago (32.5), New York (32.4), San Diego and Kansas City (tied at 31.7).

(Updated with fast national ratings at 3 p.m. ET)