Oscars ratings hit record lows in strange season dominated by diversity, streaming

·Senior Reporter
·3 min read

The show must go on — and the Oscars did just on Sunday that despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday night, the no-Zoom, in-person ceremony saw women and diversity at the forefront — with a particular focus on international stories. However, ratings tumbled by more than half from last year to a new record low, reflecting how Hollywood's premier awards shows are having trouble attracting interest from the broader public.

The host-less award show operated like a movie production with no mask-wearing on camera. It capped off a strange award season with many big-budget films pushed back to accommodate theater re-openings, many of which shuttered as COVID-19 took hold around the world.

And it was yet another big night for streaming platforms, as 15 of the 23 winners went to projects that— at the very least — simultaneously premiered on streaming services. Searchlight Pictures' "Nomadland," which received a hybrid-release on Hulu (DIS), took home the top prize of the night as Hollywood looks adapts to the changing industry.

Netflix (NFLX) walked away with 7 total wins, the most out of any other production house. Disney came in second with 5 wins.

In a puzzling break with tradition, the Best Picture category was presented before Best Actress and Best Actor, which went to "Nomadland's" Frances McDormand and "The Father's" Anthony Hopkins, respectively.

Diversity shines in "anomaly" year

Chloe Zhao makes history after winning Best Director at the 93rd Academy Awards
Chloe Zhao makes history after winning Best Director at the 93rd Academy Awards

"Nomadland's" Chloe Zhao made history as the first woman of color to win Best Director — and only the second woman ever to win the coveted award.

Overall, 9 actors of color were nominated — the most diverse acting slate in the Academy's history. Still, only 2 of the nonwhite nominees took home statuettes.

"Minari's" Yuh-jung Youn snagged Best Supporting Actress, becoming the first Korean woman to win in the ultra-competitive category, whereas "Judas and the Black Messiah's" Daniel Kaluuya walked away with Best Supporting Actor.

Other standouts moments included "Soul" securing Best Animated Feature Film — Pixar’s first movie to showcase a Black lead character. Meanwhile, two-thirds of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom's" hair and makeup team, Mia Neal and Jamika Wilson, made history as the first Black women to receive a nomination in the category and, now, a win.

Yuh-Jung Youn, winner of the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for
Yuh-Jung Youn, winner of the award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for "Minari" poses in the press room at the Oscars in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 25, 2021

"Diversity is key here," Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian previously told Yahoo Finance. He categorized this as an "anomaly of a year in terms of the way the nominees were presented," with the coronavirus shuttering the majority of U.S. theaters in 2020.

"This is a year like no other. I never think we will see an Oscars season like this again," he added.

Whither, award show ratings?

Academy Award viewership — as well as those in other major award broadcasts — has been on a serious decline in recent years. This year was certainly no exception.

According Nielsen Live+Same Day preliminary national numbers, cited by Variety, 2021's Academy Awards were down a whopping 58.3% (13.75 million) compared to last year with just 9.85 million viewers tuning in — a new record low.

To compare, 2020's show saw 23.6 million viewers tune in, a 20% drop from 2019 levels, and about 3 million less than 2018's previous low.

Award shows that debuted throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic have seen rapid swings to the downside. Viewership for the Grammys, Golden Globes and Emmys were all significantly lower compared to last year — plummeting 53%, 63% and 12%, respectively.

Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect the latest Oscars ratings from Nielsen

Alexandra is a Producer & Entertainment Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @alliecanal8193

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