Oscars ceremony watched by lowest audience in six years

The US TV broadcast of this year’s Oscars ceremony on Sunday scored the event’s lowest ratings in six years, averaging 36.6 million.They were down by 16% on last year’s ratings, according to Nielsen figures published by Variety. First-time host Neil Patrick Harris received lukewarm reviews, while some have blamed the drop on a lack of nominations for films with mass appeal.Last year 43.7 million tuned in when Ellen DeGeneres was at the helm.DeGeneres had powered the show to a 10-year ratings high and proved a tough act to follow.Critics were unimpressed by Harris’s performance during the three-and-a-half hour awards show, which saw him stripping to his pants for a Birdman and Whiplash inspired sketch – something the LA Times review called “embarrassing”. Harris has previously won four Primetime Emmys for his skills hosting Broadway’s Tony awards.However The Washington Post commented: “It was bound to happen eventually. Neil Patrick Harris, the man who can host anything, finally stumbled.”Not everyone has blamed Harris for the ceremony’s lack of appeal though, with some suggesting the predictability of this year’s awards race may have put TV viewers off.Many of this year’s prizes were awarded to favourites including Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore who took the top acting prizes on the night. Birdman triumphed over Boyhood to win both best picture and best director for Alejandro Gonzalez.The New York Times has suggested the gap between films that are popular in US cinemas and those winning Oscars may also explain a ratings dip, calling the awards “hopelessly detached from movie viewers.”Box-office smash American Sniper went home with only the sound-editing prize, while the second biggest ticket seller of the best picture nominations, The Imitation Game, also took just one prize.”After months of intense prize campaigning by the Oscar-savvy Weinstein Company, it lost in seven of its eight nominated categories, winning only for best adapted screenplay,” said The New York Times.
In the wake of Birdman’s best picture win, Fox Searchlight announced it is doubling the number of US cinemas showing the film to more than 1,000.Sunday’s TV broadcast was the Academy Awards’ lowest-rated show since 2009, which attracted 36.3 million viewers when Hugh Jackman hosted and Slumdog Millionaire was the big winner.
However, US journalist Mark Harris has suggested on Twitter that viewing figures are “basically stable”, writing: “With one exception, the Oscar audience has ranged from 36-46 million for 30 years.”