Oscars Ratings Dip to Lowest Mark in Eight Years

Lack of blockbusters in major categories blamed for third-least-watched Academy Awards ever

With 34.3 million viewers, the 88th annual Academy Awards was the least-watched ceremony in eight years and posted the third-lowest ratings ever Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment

Chris Rock's much anticipated, take-no-prisoners opening monologue, a Lady Gaga performance and the near-certainty of Leonardo DiCaprio's first Oscar win weren't enough to boost the Academy Awards' television ratings as the ceremony witnessed its lowest viewership in eight years. With only 34.3 million viewers, the 88th annual Academy Awards were the third-least-watched event in Oscars history, Deadline reports.

While there is no clear-cut factor behind the dip in viewership, Variety reports that the lack of blockbusters in the Best Picture category – only three of the eight nominated films (Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant and The Martian) cleared $100 million at the box office – was likely the main culprit.

As Deadline notes, the second-most-watched Oscar ceremony since 2000 was in 2004 when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King – the final film in that box office-ruling trilogy – won Best Picture. The biggest films of 2015 – Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, etc. – were all shut out of the major Oscars categories.

However, despite the low ratings, Variety reports that the #OscarsSoWhite controversy and its ensuing boycott barely impacted its television audience, although the Reverend Al Sharpton credited the outrage over the lack of diversity among major category nominees for alienating viewers.

"The early reports of a decline in the Oscar viewership is heartening to those of us that campaigned around asking citizens to tune out," Sharpton said in a statement Monday. "This is a significant decline and should send a message to the Academy and to movie studio heads. Though clearly we don’t take full credit for the decline, certainly one would have to assume we were effective and part of the decline. And to those that mocked the idea of a tune out, it seems the joke was on them."