ABC's Oscars telecast draws smallest audience in six years

Mon Feb 23, 2015 5:12pm EST
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By Eric Kelsey

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sunday's Academy Awards telecast on ABC drew its smallest audience in six years with 36.6 million average viewers, according to Nielsen figures, in what critics deemed a long, lackluster show and limited box office appeal among top nominees.

Nielsen data on Monday showed a 16 percent decline from last year, a significant drop for Walt Disney Co's ABC since the program is its biggest annual draw.

ABC banked on actor Neil Patrick Harris, who has earned plaudits as host of TV's Emmy Awards and theater's Tony Awards, to build on the momentum of comedian Ellen DeGeneres, who helped last year's show attract 43.7 million viewers, its biggest audience since 2000.

The Oscars annually attracts the biggest non-sports TV audience in the United States, but the show this year drew the lowest viewership since 2009. ABC is signed on to broadcast Hollywood's biggest awards show through 2020.

Harris, 41, who has a strong following among younger viewers as the star of sitcom "How I Met Your Mother," was seen as a bridge between older viewers and the younger audiences advertisers covet most.

The telecast reached 60 million U.S. viewers overall, according to Nielsen figures.

Producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, in their third straight year running the Oscars telecast, gambled on big musical numbers with the likes of Lady Gaga's tribute to "The Sound of Music" and an opening song-and-dance routine that failed to garner a strong ovation from the star-studded crowd.

Critics faulted the show, which ran about 40 minutes longer than its three-hour schedule, for poor writing and bland bits.   Continued...

Singer songwriter Rita Ora to performs the Oscar nominated song "Grateful" from the film "Beyond the Lights" at the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Blake