TV Ratings: Oscars Drop to Near All-Time Low With 34.3 Million Viewers

The Chris Rock-hosted telecast still ranks above the 2008 telecast.
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Early numbers are in for the 2016 Oscars, and the initial stats have the Chris Rock-hosted telecast down even further from last year's lows. The telecast ranks as the third-lowest rated on record, with 34.3 million viewers, per Fast National ratings.

Nielsen's overnight estimates had the 3½-hour ABC event on track for another drop with an average 23.4 rating among households in 56 of the nation's biggest TV markets. That's off 6 percent from 2015, making for a seven-year low in overnights.

The least-watched Oscars on record is still the 2008 ceremony hosted by Jon Stewart. That show came in just shy of 32 million viewers. (The 2003 show fared a little better with 33 million viewers.)

This year's Oscars seemed poised to go either way ahead of the big night. The weeks-long controversy over the complete absence of racial diversity in the acting categories stood to turn many viewers away from the kudocast, with some calling for a boycott, but the question of how Rock would address #OscarsSoWhite could have also goosed the ratings. Evidently, it was the former.

Interestingly, Rock's Oscars were a hit among male viewers. The show jumped 20 percent with men 18-34 and 6 percent among men 18-49.

The most recent Oscars set a pretty mediocre bar for ratings. The 2015 telecast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, averaged an overnight 25.0 rating among households — off 10 percent from the previous ceremony. Adjusted numbers made for even more dramatic drops, with viewership at a six-year low of 37.2 million. The 2015 awards show also suffered in the key demographic of adults 18-49, dropping 18 percent to a 11 rating.

These Oscars weren't down as much among younger viewers. The show averaged a nearly steady 10.4 rating among adults 18-49. And there is also still room for improvement. Fast National ratings typically rise in finals. Last year's added another 700,000 viewers when all the cards were on the table.