Oscars TV Ratings Take a Nosedive, Hitting an 8-Year Low

February 29, 2016, 5:03 PM UTC
88th Annual Academy Awards - Show
Photograph by Kevin Winter—Getty Images

UPDATE: This article has been updated with additional television ratings for Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony.

Despite all of the hype and #OscarsSoWhite controversy, Sunday night’s 88th Academy Awards broadcast pulled in the award show’s lowest overnight ratings since 2008.

Oscars 2016, which aired on Walt Disney’s (DIS) ABC network, averaged a 23.1 rating in metered markets. That represents a 6% dip from the already low ratings the show turned in last year, according to ratings tracker Nielsen. In the markets tracked by Nielsen, the Academy Awards –which was hosted by comedian Chris Rock–earned a 37% share of households watching television during the show’s airtime last night.

Nielsen also reported that the Oscars’ time zone-adjusted ratings show that the broadcast averaged 34.3 million total viewers last night.

The overnight ratings represent the lowest ratings for an Oscars broadcast since comedian Jon Stewart hosted the event in 2008. The 2015 Oscars, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, averaged roughly 37 million total viewers, which was lower than each of the previous six years.

Chris Rock opened Sunday’s show by immediately tackling the ongoing controversy over the all-white nominees in acting categories. At one point in his opening monologue, Rock asked the question, “Is Hollywood racist?” before answering himself: “You’re damn right, Hollywood is racist.” Last night’s show also featured a much talked-about moment when Vice President Joe Biden introduced pop star Lady Gaga’s musical performance as part of a broader appeal to end sexual assault on college campuses.

Rock previously hosted the Oscars in 2005, at which point the broadcast pulled in 42.1 million viewers, which is more than any Oscars that have aired since, except for the 43.7 million who watched Ellen Degeneres’ 2014 turn as host.

In the important demographic of adults aged 18 to 49, Rock’s hosting gig on Sunday night earned an overnight metered market rating of 13.5, which was down 5% from last year, meaning that a lower percentage of young people watched this year’s broadcast.

Viewership totals for the Oscars’ livestream—available only to subscribers in a handful of TV markets on ABC.com and through the Watch ABC app—are not yet available, so it is not yet clear how much (if at all) the limited number of online viewers contributed to this year’s ratings dip.

Last night’s low ratings could end up being a major disappointment for department store operator Kohl’s (KSS), which this year replaced rival J.C. Penney (JCP) as the sole retail sponsor for the Academy Awards broadcast. Kohl’s spent big to roll out a new series of Oscars-themed commercials that aired during the award show’s commercial breaks and featured lip-synced versions of famous Oscars acceptance speeches from years past.