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Oscars Viewership Trails Grammys for First Time Since 1984

Viewership for ABC’s coverage of the Academy Awards trailed CBS’ coverage of the Grammy Awards two weeks earlier, marking the first time since 1984 that the music awards ceremony has topped the Oscars.

An average of 39.3 million viewers watched the two-hour, 54-minute ceremony hosted Sunday night by Billy Crystal from the Hollywood & Highland Center, according to preliminary figures released today by The Nielsen Co.

The Feb. 12 Grammys ceremony from Staples Center averaged 39.9 million viewers and is considered to have received a boost in viewership from the death of singing star Whitney Houston the night before the show.

Though bested by the Grammys, viewership for the Oscars was up 3.7 percent from last year’s ceremony, which averaged 37.9 million and had James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts. Crystal’s first stint as emcee since 2004 is considered one reason that more viewers tuned in.

Viewership topped three of the last four years, trailing only the 2010 ceremony, which averaged 41.7 million viewers and was boosted by the best picture nomination for the box office record-setter “Avatar.”

There has traditionally been a high correlation between the commercial success of the best picture nominees and Oscar viewership, with nominees with high box office receipts leading to highly watched Oscar telecasts.

The most-watched ceremony since individual viewership figures began being kept in 1974 was in 1998, when 55.25 million tuned in to see the then-box office record-setter “Titanic” win best picture honors as Crystal hosted.

Of this year’s nine best picture nominees, only “The Help” topped more than $100 million in domestic ticket sales.

Viewership for awards shows slumped to record lows several years ago, including the Oscars, which averaged a record-low 32.01 million viewers in 2008 when Jon Stewart emceed and “No Country for Old Men” was the best picture winner.

However, viewership rebounded recently, with people interested in providing instant commentary on social networking websites as one factor for the increase.

Final figures are scheduled to be released Tuesday, but are not expected to change significantly from those released today.

Copyright © 2012 CNS

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