Mar 28, 2022 - Economy

Oscars ratings jump 56% from last year's record low

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock onstage at the Oscars

Will Smith slaps Chris Rock onstage at Sunday's Oscars. Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP

At least 15.3 million people watched Sunday's 94th Oscar Awards, according to preliminary figures from Nielsen, up from 9.85 million people that were counted in immediately following last year's show.

Yes, but: The figure still marks the second-smallest Oscars audience in history.

By the numbers: Prior to the pandemic, no Oscars telecast had ever fallen below 20 million viewers.

  • The 2020 Oscars, which aired before the pandemic lockdowns in the U.S., drew 23.6 million viewers, while the 2019 show drew 29.6 million viewers.
  • The preliminary figures are expected to rise slightly as more data comes in. Early ratings don't include streaming and some viewership for audiences on the West Coast. Final figures are expected to be released Tuesday morning.

Why it matters: This year's Oscar Awards show marked a return to normal, with an in-person telecast and hosts.

  • Before Sunday night, the Academy Awards hadn't had a host since 2018.
  • Last year, the event — produced by Hollywood veteran Steven Soderbergh — was undeniably slow.

Be smart: While Will Smith's now infamous slap across comedian Chris Rock's face stole the show, it likely didn't have a huge impact on ratings, given how late in the program the incident occurred.

  • Public interest in Sunday night's Oscars exploded in the 11 p.m. hour, after the slap, according to data from NewsWhip. The show began at 8 p.m. ET and ended around 11 p.m. ET.

The big picture: Viewership for all major TV events has declined as more people turn to streaming, but award shows viewership seems to be declining faster than most major live sports championship events, according to an Axios analysis of Nielsen data.

  • Ratings for The Oscars and most of Hollywood's major award shows took a steep hit during the pandemic.
Go deeper