Early Ratings for Oscars Are Pretty Dismal
An 8-year low, and the 3rd-worst numbers since 1990
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 29, 2016 5:05 PM CST
Host Chris Rock speaks at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.   (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

(Newser) – Academy Awards viewership dipped to its lowest level since 2008 in a year where the movie industry's ability to reflect the nation's diversity was a central issue. The Nielsen company said Monday preliminary estimates showed 34.3 million people watched Sunday night's telecast, the AP reports. Last year's show was seen by 37.3 million people. Since 1990, only two Academy Awards telecasts had fewer viewers: in 2008, when No Country For Old Men won best picture, and in 2004, when Chicago was honored. The peak came when Titanic won a boatload of awards in 1998 and 55 million people tuned in.

The paucity of minority nominees this year led to calls for a boycott among some black stars, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee. But Nielsen did not immediately have any ethnic breakdown of Oscar viewership. Generally, the popularity of movies being honored tends to be the biggest factor in whether the audience for the live telecast is up or down. The most recent awards shows, the Golden Globes and Grammys, also saw ratings declines. The Globes, which honor film and television, were seen by 18.5 million people, down from 19.3 million in 2015. The Grammy telecast hit a seven-year low in viewership. (Check out 11 of the most talked-about Oscars moments this year.)