Sunday’s Most-Watched Oscars Moment Wasn’t the Best Picture Debacle

It wasn’t Justin Timberlake’s opening number either

Beatty Moonlight Oscars
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We already know that Sunday’s Oscars hauled in 32.9 million viewers — but what was the most-watched moment of the extra-long ABC special?

Well, it wasn’t that insane Best Picture fiasco, believe it or not. Actually, those few minutes weren’t even Nielsen rated, as the official cut-off time for the show was 12:03 a.m. ET. The show was actually supposed to end at 11:30 p.m., but that rarely (if ever) works out.

The 89th Academy Awards’ biggest quarter-hour — in live tune-in, at least — also wasn’t Justin Timberlake’s opening number mixed with Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue. It wasn’t the well-received tour-bus gag either, keep guessing. “The first candy drop?” we’re imagining a reader asking. No, but you’re getting much warmer.

This year’s food delivery bit happened at about 9:25 p.m. ET, just before the special’s top 15 minutes. Those came between 9:30 p.m. ET and 9:45 p.m. ET, which averaged 35.050 million total viewers. The quarter-hour before landed 35 million flat, the one after put up 35.015 million.

The thing is, nothing all that interesting actually happened between 9:30 and 9:45. The trophy for Best Sound Mixing just made it in on the early end. After returning from commercial, Vince Vaughn recapped the Governors Award winners from last fall, giving a special shout-out to Jackie Chan in the process. Riveting stuff, right?

Next, Mark Rylance got a little political introducing the Best Supporting Actress category, which Viola Davis won around 9:41 p.m. ET. Her speech filled out the rest of the brief time period, warming Twitter over in the process.

Clearly, all that didn’t amount to the most riveting 15 minutes of the lengthy evening — so why did it win with viewers? Well, the candy drop was a big moment on social media, which surely prompted some to flip over in time.

Viola’s speech was also a buzzy one for those palling around online, though it could only influence the very tail-end of the time period. Still, every little bit helps. So, what gives? Well, primarily, that’s just a really popular time to watch television on a Sunday night. Also, there was really no original broadcast competition after 9 o’clock, when the CBS and NBC news magazine shows wrapped.

We really wish we had a better answer for you, but it’s pretty much mostly because lot of folks try to wrap up their weekends and work nights by 10 p.m. Hopefully, our “It’s bedtime” answer isn’t as unsatisfying for readers as the end of the evening was for “La La Land” producers.