Most of the TV industry saw it coming well before Sunday, but with final Nielsen data in today, one of this year’s biggest Oscar predictions was confirmed: The 93rd annual Academy Awards won worst Oscars ever in terms of viewership.
The 2021 Oscars drew 10.4 million total eyeballs and a 2.1 rating in the key advertiser-friendly demographic of viewers ages 18 to 49, according to final time-zone adjusted Live + Same Day Nielsen numbers (which includes out-of-home viewing data). That puts Sunday’s telecast, which aired live with an in-person show that took place at Union Station in Los Angeles, down 56% in total viewers and 60% in ratings.
Yeah, that’s bad — but is it worse than the pandemic-era major awards shows that came before it? For the most part, the answer is no.
The 2021 Oscars join this year’s Golden Globes and Grammys in shedding at least 50% of their audience year over year: The Globes dropped a whopping 62.5%, while the Grammys fell 50.5%.
In ratings, all three shows were down even more, with the Feb. 28 Golden Globes falling 68% (4.7 versus 1.5), the March 14 Grammys declining 57%.
The only major pandemic-era awards show that stayed out of that steep-decline club was the 72nd annual Emmy Awards, which took place on Sept. 20, 2020. That show, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel with remote winners handed trophies by couriers dressed in Hazmat suits, fell a modest 7.2% in viewers and 23.5% in the key demo.
Still, it’s worth noting that Emmys continued to be the least watched of the four major awards shows — a trend that has continued even as viewership of the Oscars, Globes and Grammys has cratered.
As recently as 2016, the Oscars drew an audience of 34.4 million — which was more than three times the 11.4 million total for that year’s Emmys. This year’s Oscars are not even double the viewership of last year’s Emmys.
With the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards set for Sept. 19, it will be several months until we find out if — and by how much — awards show can bounce back as they (hopefully) return to a more “normal” format by the fall as the COVID-19 vaccines continue to roll out.