The preliminary ratings for the 2018 Oscar Awards Ceremony on ABC indicate a significant drop in live viewership relative to the ratings for the 2017 Oscars. Despite this, ABC was still the clear winner of the evening among the Big Four broadcast networks.
Oscar Night is traditionally a big event for ABC, who has broadcast the Academy Awards every year since 1976. The Oscars are unique in that they are the only major awards show that is aired live in all United States time zones, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Oscars have been televised live every year since 1953, with the traditional broadcasts starting on the NBC network. ABC is currently contracted to continue broadcasting The Oscars through 2028.
Variety broke the story on the Nielsen numbers, delivering the specifics. The first three hours of the telecast earned an 18.9 household rating and 32 share in Nielsen’s monitored markets, which cover about 70% of the viewership in the United States. This represents a 16% dip from the 2017 Oscars, which earned a 22.5 household rating with a 37 share.
It is important to note, however, that these preliminary numbers are far from complete. They do not include the final hour of the four-hour telecast, which is traditionally the most-viewed portion of the Oscar Awards. Many viewers skip the early hours of the Oscars, only watching the final hour when the major awards such as Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Director are announced. It's also important to note that the Nielsen ratings only account for those viewers watching the show through a broadcast signal or cable television. It does not count the increasing number of people who watch The Oscars online, through the ABC website or a streaming service, such as Hulu.
While the groups boycotting the 2018 Oscar Awards Ceremony due to its focus on women's rights and minority representation will surely be quick to claim a victory in the face of this news, reality is not on their side. It seems far more likely, in these days when Netflix has as many subscribers as the cable television providers combined, that the viewership is still there but is using other means to watch the show. It is a well known fact that traditional television viewership as a whole is down, due to the so-called "cable cutters" that now wait for entire seasons of their favorite shows to become available on a streaming service rather than watching the episodes as they're released one at a time on the broadcast and cable networks. The Nielsen ratings also don't account for those cable customers who record The Oscars to watch later through a DVR device.