The producers of the 93rd Academy Awards wanted the ceremony to feel like a movie. But it appears the project was a bomb.
The ratings for the pandemic Oscars plunged to an all-time low, drawing a paltry 9.85 million total viewers, according to early Nielsen numbers provided by ABC, the network that aired the event.
That's a staggering 58 percent drop from last year's telecast, which was watched by 23.6 million viewers.
The final numbers will be released Tuesday, but the preliminary ratings obtained by NBC News are likely not far off the mark.
The ratings for the Academy Awards have been on a steep decline over the last decade as linear television viewership has been hit by cord-cutting and eclipsed by streaming video. The Oscars are no longer an edge-of-your-seat television event with the power to shape popular culture.
In the era of Covid-19, awards show ratings have been especially dismal.
The ratings for the Grammys in March dropped by 53 percent from last year, to 8.8 million viewers — an all-time low for the music world’s marquee celebration. The viewership for the Golden Globes in February plunged by 60 percent, to an anemic 6.9 million viewers.
The producers of this year's Oscars — Jesse Collins, Stacey Sher and celebrated director Steven Soderbergh — faced a head-spinning challenge. They were asked to put on a lively party in the middle of a pandemic and spotlight a group of little-seen films mostly released on streaming services.
The apparent erosion of interest in the Academy Awards represents another blow to an industry already grappling with shuttered theater chains and growing competition from at-home viewing choices.
Best picture honors this year went to "Nomadland," Chloé Zhao's elegiac portrait of a woman who traverses the American West in a van. Frances McDormand, the film's star and one of its producers, nabbed her third best actress prize.