Oscar 2008: Show's Ratings Slightly Better Than Last Year

Feb 23, 2009–Strong viewings in the country's biggest urban markets helped the ratings of the 81st annual Academy Awards telecast on ABC Sunday night.  The numbers rose by about 6% in Nielsen's metered-market overnights compared to last year's record low.

According to the Nielsen estimates, which measure roughly 50 of the biggest markets in the U.S., the Oscars averaged a 23.3 household rating/35 share from 8:30 to about 11:45 p.m. ET. Last year's telecast averaged a 21.9/33 in the overnights, translating to about 32 million viewers nationally.

New York delivered the largest rating Sunday (34.1/49 share), followed by Chicago (31.2/46) and Los Angeles (28.1/44). On the night, ABC beat the combined household delivery of CBS, NBC and Fox by roughly 30%.

Total-viewer estimates, as well as ratings in key demographic categories, will be issued by Nielsen later this morning, but it's a good bet that this year's kudocast will move ahead of last year's all-time low, which prompted changes in the show's format. Last year's Oscar ratings were held down in part by lower ratings circulation at ABC and less awards-show buildup due to the writers strike.

Prior to last year, the smallest crowd on record for the Oscar Awards was in 2003, when an average audience of 33.04 million tuned in.