The Oscar ratings are up from last year! The promise of the stupid fan-voted categories and CODA’s awards season run and the perverse curiosity we all shared over how the show would handle the non-televised categories actually translated to slightly more people watching than last year! Hooray! Go ahead and celebrate, Academy. You did it.
But now we must point out that last year’s Oscars was the lowest-rated ceremony ever, so it would’ve taken lightning hitting the Dolby Theater and cutting out the entire broadcast to do any worse than the 2021 show. That one got around 9.8 million viewers, waaay down from the 23.6 million people who tuned in to see 2020’s pre-COVID Oscars, and last night’s show got somewhere around 13.7 million viewers—making it the second-worst ever.
That means even a huge watercooler event like that or Will Smith hitting Chris Rock doesn’t necessarily mean better ratings from people who want to see what happens the next year. Basically, the Oscars are going to have to keep trying to think of some way to boost the ratings, because the truly absurd number of things they tried this year didn’t do enough.
While violence is never the answer, no matter how entertaining it may be to watch two millionaires slap each other, the Oscars benefited from the break from the social graces of polite society. Per Variety, in the 15 minutes following the slap, the Oscars ratings spiked by 500,000 viewers.
However, while everyone tuned into the Oscars for violence, the lack thereof bored the general public, who broke the cardinal rule of Larry Sanders and started flipping.
The night wasn’t over yet, though. When the Oscars awarded Smith the Academy Award for Best Actor, he caused another jump in ratings. More than 600,000 people checked out Smith’s bizarre, incoherent, tear-filled acceptance speech, hoping for yet another glimpse at the carnage bumbling beneath the market-tested persona of one Mr. Willennium C. Smith II.