Oscar viewership improves over 2021, but still second lowest watched ever

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The 94th Academy Awards telecast dipped to its second lowest viewership ever — even as Will Smith hitting Chris Rock blew up social media interest in the broadcast.

The ceremony, which aired Sunday, March 27, 2022 on ABC, brought in 16.6 million viewers, according to revised data released by Nielsen, a small increase from the initial fast ratings provided.

Despite being the second least-watched Oscars telecast ever, it was up 60% from 2021.

2021’s ceremony did not feature a host, while this year’s was co-hosted by Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer and Regina Hall.

Both ceremonies, as well as 2020’s, took place during the coronavirus pandemic, though 2022’s proceedings were largely back to normal, including returning to the Dolby Theatre after using alternate venues the past two years.

The big news of the night, Smith attacking Rock on stage, notably did not appear to significantly increase ratings once news of it began to circulate.

At least part of this could be contributed to the clip of the incident being quickly circulated on social media, including versions taken from foreign feeds that were not muted.

When Smith’s category, which he ended up winning, aired at around 11 p.m. eastern, ratings did jump by about 615,000.

Awards shows, which were often popular events, have mostly dipped in viewership in recent years despite numerous experiments to try to get more interest, ranging from going hostless, having multiple hosts and experimenting with the format or staging.

The 2022 Oscars were widely criticized for moving the awards for several key technical categories to a streaming-only broadcast before the official one started, though clips from select ones were aired during the live broadcast.

The Oscars may have also suffered because the pandemic widely disrupted movie-going in general so viewers were less familiar with the titles nominated, though that market had been shrinking prior to COVID-19 hitting.

However, that argument can only be partially blamed because more and more films are being produced and distributed by streaming networks, most of which have seen a boom in business since the pandemic started.

Many streaming movies and TV shows have continued to do well at their respective awards shows.