The 2020 Oscars TV broadcast saw the lowest ratings ever for the ceremony. Another awards season came to a close last night, with Bong Joon-ho’s critically acclaimed Parasite being crowned Best Picture. Bong was definitely the star of the evening (winning three other Oscars), but his fellow nominees included some of the biggest names in Hollywood. The likes of Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, and others were all up for awards. The high-profile nature of the talent seemed to appeal to hardcore cinephiles and casual audiences alike.
In 2019, the Academy reversed an unsettling trend when ratings were higher than the year before. Encouraged by those results, the Oscars went host-less for the second consecutive year, banking on the films to draw in viewers. What sounded like a good idea on-paper unfortunately didn’t have the desired effect, and the 2020 Oscars made the wrong kind of history in regards to ratings.
Per QuickTake by Bloomberg, the 2020 Oscars saw 23.6 million viewers tune in. That’s the lowest figure since Nielsen started keeping track of the ratings in 1974.
This turn of events is a little surprising, as a number of the year’s Best Picture nominees were sizable box office hits. Joker was far and away the highest-grossing with $1 billion worldwide, but even the likes of Ford v Ferrari ($223.6 million), Little Women ($177.1 million), Once Upon a Time in Hollywood ($374.2 million), and 1917 ($290 million) drew in large crowds. Other contenders such as The Irishman and Marriage Story were streaming on Netflix. A lot of popular films were in the running, which theoretically would lead to stronger viewership. It’s not coincidental last year’s ratings uptick happened when massive hits like Black Panther and A Star is Born were nominated. The Oscars have been guilty of being too esoteric for their own good in the past, but in 2020, the movies themselves were not the issue.