The Cutline

Grammy trumps Oscar: More people watched the Grammys than the Oscars for the first time in 28 years

Dylan Stableford
The Cutline

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Angelina Jolie arrives before the 84th Academy Awards, Feb. 26, 2012. (Amy Sancetta/AP)

The broadcast of the 84th annual Academy Awards on Sunday drew 39.3 million total viewers for ABC, according to Nielsen's final ratings released Tuesday. While that's 1.4 million more viewers than last year's telecast, it's also the first time since 1984 that more people watched the Grammy Awards than the Oscars.

The rare Grammy-over-Oscar victory was due, at least in part, to morbid curiosity. The death of Whitney Houston the night before helped catapult "music's biggest night" to its second largest audience of all time, with the Grammys drawing 39.9 million viewers for CBS earlier this month. In 1984, some 43.8 million people watched Michael Jackson walk away with eight Grammys -- seven for "Thriller."

Sunday night also represented the oldest TV audience ever for the Academy Awards. (Perhaps not surprising given the fact that 63-year-old Billy Crystal was the host, his ninth time.) The median age of the Oscar viewer was 52.8, a record high according to Nielsen.

[ SEE SLIDESHOW: The 84th Academy Awards ceremony ]

Still, ABC isn't complaining. Sunday's Oscars telecast was the most-watched ABC special in two years. ABC said its Oscar programming on Sunday reached an estimated 76.0 million unique television viewers for  the red carpet preshow, the "Academy Awards" telecast and "Jimmy Kimmel Live" after the Academy Awards combined.

The most-watched Academy Awards occurred in 1998, when the telecast averaged 55.25 million viewers and "Titanic" won best picture.

Sunday's Oscars telecast retained its 11.7 rating among 18-49-year-olds from a year ago, and saw a minor uptick in female viewers of the same age, ABC said. The 2012 Grammys grabbed a 14.1 rating.

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