Oscars draw record low TV ratings

Tue Feb 26, 2008 8:28am EST
 
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Films about psychopaths, greedy oilmen and corrupt lawyers failed to click with moviegoers, and they proved a turnoff to U.S. television viewers as this year's Oscars show hit record low ratings.

The 80th anniversary edition of the Academy Awards, dominated by European stars and films that played poorly at the box office, averaged 32 million viewers, entering the record books on Monday as the least watched Oscar telecast ever.

The national viewer tally reported by Nielsen Media Research for ABC's live, three-hour-plus telecast on Sunday was down about 1 million viewers from the previous record low, set in 2003 when the Oscars were presented just after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq had begun.

The 2003 program was hosted by Steve Martin and featured the musical "Chicago" as best picture.

Sunday's broadcast, with comedian Jon Stewart making his second appearance as Oscar host, now ranks as the smallest U.S. TV audience for the Oscars since 1974, when actual viewer totals first became available.

The household rating, 18.7, also marks the lowest level by that measure going back to the first televised Oscars in 1953.

By contrast, the most watched Oscar broadcast on record was the 1998 show, when the box-office blockbuster "Titanic" sailed off with a record-tying 11 awards, including the prize for best picture. Some 55 million Americans tuned in that year.

Even that figure pales in comparison to the audience that tunes in annually to the National Football League championship Super Bowl game, which this year drew 97.5 million viewers.   Continued...

 
<p>Host Jon Stewart delivers a monologue during the 80th annual Academy Awards, the Oscars, in Hollywood February 24, 2008. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn</p>