Despite the onslaught of niche theatrical nominees, ABC’s broadcast of The 84th Academy Awards still managed to garner a 4% rise in the ratings from last year – thanks to Billy Crystal returning as host.

In total, 39.3 million viewers tuned in to see Crystal take the stage once again. Unfortunately, Crystal’s return, while generally entertaining, was not the ratings winner that everyone had hoped to be. Never before had the Oscars failed to attract fewer than 40 million viewers with Crystal hosting.

The host, however, is not the only factor that impacts the ratings of the Oscars. Most important is the popularity of the movies nominated in the top categories. While the likes of George Clooney and Brad Pitt may have been nominated, this year’s Academy Awards contained few box-office heavyweights, in favor of more artsy type films, such as this year’s Best Picture winner, The Artist.

In comparison, the Oscars received its highest ratings (55.2 million) in 1998 when Titanic won 11 Oscars, as well as being on its way to becoming the highest grossing film ever at the time.

Last year, in an attempt to court a younger viewing audience, the Oscars brought in Anne Hathaway and James Franco as hosts, but the two failed to display proper chemistry and gave a lackluster performance of their own. And while the ratings may have been up this past year, the Oscars are no longer the most watched awards show of the year (in America).

For the first time in history the Grammy’s pulled in a greater audience than the Academy Awards, with 39.9 million viewers. This may only be slightly higher than this year’s Oscar numbers of 39.3 million, but the Grammy’s totally dominated among adults 18-49, with the music show capturing a 14.1 demo share compared to the Oscars 11.7.

Overall, the general consensus from all those watching is that the Oscars must find a way to transition itself to a new generation. While the two-second appearance from Justin Bieber was generally considered a ill-planned approach at grabbing the attention of those who are unable to even attend R-rated movies, there needs to be a more concerted effort to make Hollywood’s most prestigious awards show more approachable to those who actually attend films, and not just those who make them.

The 84th Academy Awards aired on Sunday, February 26, on ABC

Source: Entertainment Weekly