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Who Needs a Host? Oscars Snap Four-Year Decline in TV Viewers

After a four-year slide that sent ratings to historic lows, more people are tuning into the Oscars again.

The audience for Sunday’s Academy Awards telecast — a shorter ceremony with no host — improved 12 percent from a year ago. Walt Disney Co.’s ABC said that 29.6 million people watched the Oscars, up from 26.5 million a year ago.

The show was marked by a brisker pace and a diverse group of winners, including the first competitive Oscar for director Spike Lee. It ran slightly over three hours. Last year’s telecast ran almost four hours and suffered the lowest viewership for the Oscars in history.

On Sunday, “Green Book,” the Universal Pictures film about race relations in the U.S. South in the early 1960s, won best picture, an upset over Netflix Inc., which had campaigned heavily for its film, “Roma.” This year’s Oscars didn’t have a host for the first time in three decades.

The ratings boost is a rare bright spot for the television landscape. Live events — even high-profile ones like the Super Bowl — have been losing viewers. Prior to this year, the audience for the Oscars had fallen every year since 2014.

Oscars Coverage

How ‘Green Book’ overcame controversy to win Netflix is dealt setback when ‘Roma’ loses The progress of Hollywood’s ‘inclusion riders’ Meet the production company behind ‘Roma’ and ‘Green Book’Even with shrinking viewership, ad prices for the program have remained strong, a reflection of how hard it is for marketers to reach a large live audience in today’s fragmented media landscape. ABC was getting $2 million to $2.6 million for every 30-second spot during the Oscars telecast, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.