Oscars Ratings Up Big, But Still Down Bad

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Very few things could knock a shocking Chris Rock-Will Smith dustup off the front page, but nothing delights like empirical numbers and ratings chatter. On that front the Academy Awards scored a bounce-back victory for ABC, as the night of movies and mayhem drew 15.3 millions viewers, up 56 percent from last year's historically low 10.4 million.

Since Nielsen began tracking in the 1970s, the Oscars had never fallen below 20 million viewers. The pandemic set about seismic changes in both the moviegoing experience and scaled-down events failed to approximate programs of the past. All award shows have rebounded this year to move ratings numbers up.

Viewers obviously flocked in droves after the stunning on-stage incident, which surely buoyed the overall figure. One of the most surprising live television moments in generations will do that. Though it wouldn't be something the show's producers and executives would care to admit, the Smith-Rock confrontation spiked interest in the Academy Awards as a whole, even if the overwhelming takeaway was a negative. If the institution can carry some of this into the future remains to be seen. And it's not as though one can expect anything like this to go down — especially if Smith is hit with some sort of punitive measure.