The 2019 Oscars broadcast's ratings were considerably higher than 2018's all-time low numbers. Over the past few years, the Academy Awards have seen continually declining viewership, which is what led to a number of proposed changes to revamp the proceedings in 2019. In an effort to make the show more appealing and accessible to mainstream audiences, the Academy toyed with the possibility of introducing a Best Popular Film category, cutting the presentation of a handful of awards to commercial breaks, and limiting the number of Best Original Song performances. The Academy eventually backtracked on all of these after facing intense backlash from the film community.
This year, the Oscars didn't even have a famous host to draw people in. They wanted Kevin Hart for the gig, but Hart stepped down after controversy surrounding his homophobic tweets. In lieu of finding a replacement, the Academy opted to go host-less for the first time in 30 years. It had all the makings of an epic train wreck, but after a tumultuous season that saw one negative headline after another, the Academy was miraculously able to close things out on a high note.
According to Deadline, the early returns from last night's ceremony shows a 14.3 percent uptick in ratings from last year's Oscars. It's worth mentioning the 2019 show currently has the second-lowest figures of all-time, but this is still an encouraging development for the Academy. Ratings had gone down the previous four years.
While the intrigue of how a host-less Oscars would go may have made people tune in out of morbid curiosity, the more likely explanation for this turn of events are the nominated films. Three of this year's Best Picture contenders - Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star is Born - grossed more than $200 million at the domestic box office. This was the first time since the 2010 Oscars that happened, when the trio of Avatar, Up, and The Blind Side were up for the top prize. The call for the Oscars to nominate "more films audiences have seen" is arguably a bit disingenuous to the deserving, smaller films that score nods, but having a few blockbusters in the running doesn't hurt. Bohemian Rhapsody was so popular that Queen opened the show with a short performance, Black Panther rewrote the record book during its run, and A Star is Born boasted tremendous star power. Fans of those movies wanted to see what they could win and probably felt more compelled to watch the Oscars.
It'll be interesting to see how the Academy handles the 2020 version of the ceremony. Many viewers commented how smoother and quicker this year's broadcast was sans host, with some enjoying it so much they feel that's the way to go from here on out. It's also important to keep in mind that in today's day and age, ratings for live TV in general are down across the board. Even the Super Bowl had its lowest viewership in a decade this year. There may not be much the Academy can do to exponentially improve their ratings and get back to the 40+ million viewers the Oscars used to see, but at least they have something to celebrate in 2019.