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Photo by Richard Harbaugh/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Fewer than 10 million people tuned into the Academy Awards on ABC this year, a new all-time low for the show, according to preliminary Nielsen ratings.

Why it matters: Ratings for award shows have been hit hard during the pandemic, but there's no question that Sunday's sleepy telecast contributed significantly to the fallout.

Details: The show — produced by Hollywood veteran Steven Soderbergh — was undeniably slow, as Axios reported Sunday. The event was meant to feel more intimate than the other pandemic-era award shows, but it lacked the pizazz that viewers typically expect from a red-carpet event.

  • Acceptance speeches were heartfelt but too long. There were no live musical performances. Very few movie clips were shown.
  • The show ended in the most anti-climatic way possible, with the Best Actor award going to Anthony Hopkins — who wasn't there to accept the prize — instead of the late Chadwick Boseman.
  • There was no host. Instead, a rotating cast of Hollywood A-listers, like Regina King, Bryan Cranston and Reese Witherspoon, took turns hosting mini-segments and announcing different awards.

The big picture: Ratings for live television — and by extension, award shows — have been in terminal decline for years. As Axios previously noted, the Oscars and Grammys saw record low ratings pre-pandemic.

Yes, but: Sunday's show was undoubtedly impacted by the heavy toll the pandemic has taken on the movie industry.

  • Most consumers weren't familiar with the titles being nominated, in part because studios pulled back on marketing around films that couldn't be widely distributed in theaters.
  • With many of the years' biggest hits delayed due to production pauses and theater closures, some familiar titles were pushed to debut later in the year, making them ineligible for awards.

Go deeper

Apr 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Diversity takes center stage at the Oscars

Director/Producer Chloe Zhao, winner of Best Directing and Best Picture for "Nomadland," in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday at Union Station in Los Angeles. Photo: Chris Pizzello-Pool/Getty Images

A slew of first-time winners made history at the 93rd Academy Awards Sunday night, bringing the Oscars' focus on diversity into clearer view this year.

Why it matters: Ever since the #OscarsSoWhite social media campaign that began in 2015, the Academy has sought to shake the show's reputation as a mostly white male-dominated event. Still, Hollywood has a long way to go in achieving diversity amongst its ranks.

Anthony Hopkins pays tribute to Chadwick Boseman in Best Actor acceptance speech

A mural of Boseman in south London. Photo: John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images

Anthony Hopkins accepted his Academy Award for Best Actor in a short video on Monday, saying from his native Wales that he "did not expect to get this award" and wants to "pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman, who was taken from us far too early."

Why it matters: At 83 years old, Hopkins is the oldest actor to win an Oscar — his second for Best Actor — for his performance as a man struggling with progressive dementia in "The Father."

Updated Apr 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Chloé Zhao becomes first woman of color to win Oscars Best Director

Chloé Zhao accepting the Best Director Oscar onstage during the 93rd Annual Academy Awards at Union Station in Los Angeles on Sunday. Photo: Todd Wawrychuk/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images

Chloé Zhao made history on Sunday when she was awarded the Best Director Oscar for "Nomadland" — making her the first female of color and first Asian woman to win the prestigious prize in the Academy Awards' 93-year history to win.

Why it matters: Zhao's victory is a win for Asian women in Hollywood, who are often overlooked for main character, producer and director roles. "Nomadland" went on to win the Best Picture Oscar.