Mar 11, 2024 - Business

Oscars ratings hit 4-year high with "Barbenheimer" boost

Ryan Gosling and Slash perform 'I'm Just Ken' from "Barbie" onstage during the 96th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on March 10, 2024 in Hollywood, California.

Ryan Gosling and Slash perform "I'm Just Ken" from "Barbie" during the 96th Academy Awards on Sunday. Photo: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

More than 19.5 million people tuned in to watch the Oscars on Sunday — a four-year high, according to Nielsen.

Why it matters: Ratings for the Oscars — and awards shows broadly — have increased steadily from pandemic-era lows. But they are still down significantly from pre-streaming era highs.

Driving the news: This year's show saw Christopher Nolan's biographical thriller "Oppenheimer" take home the award for best picture, bucking a recent trend of indie films without much consumer appeal winning the top prize.

  • Despite being nominated for eight awards, "Barbie" was largely shut out, winning just one trophy for best song.
  • But strong performances, such as Ryan Gosling's reenactment of the movie's comical tune "I'm Just Ken," helped keep the ceremony light and viewer-friendly.
  • ABC also credited an earlier start time — 7pm ET instead of 8pm — for the ratings boost.

Between the lines: Big Tech firms were also mostly shut out Sunday night.

  • Netflix won just one award despite being nominated for 19 prizes — more than any other studio this year.
  • Apple came up empty-handed after being nominated for 13 awards.

Zoom in: Except for a few political jokes and some celebrity activism around the Israel-Hamas and Russia-Ukraine wars, this year's Oscars marked the continued return to normalcy after becoming mired in politics during the pandemic.

The big picture: Awards show ratings have begun to rebound from their pandemic-era lows.

Yes, but: The Emmys saw all-time low ratings in January after being postponed from September due to the writers and actors strikes.

Go deeper: The Oscars fight for relevance in the streaming era

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect that Netflix had 19 nominations at this year's Oscars (not 18) and that the Golden Globes aired in January (not in February).

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