Preliminary reports suggest that Oscars ratings have taken a major tumble in 2018.

According to preliminary Nielsen overnight TV ratings data, the television audience viewing the Oscars on Disney’s ABC fell 16% since 2017.

The four hour telecast of the show was watched by 18.9% of the total audience. It also had a 32 share in Nielsen’s metered market overnight ratings, covering about 70% of the US.

To put that in context, the 2017 telecast had a rating of 22.4%. In that year, audiences fell to a nine-year low of 32.9 million viewers.

However, Variety reports these ratings are not adjusted for time zones. Viewers from the West Coast who watched the telecast live are not accurately reflected in these figures.

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The numbers also do not include viewers of the post-11pm section of the show.

These final 48 minutes are arguably the most interesting of the whole show. This is the part of the Oscars which sees the major awards, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Picture crowned.

Why it matters:

No doubt some detractors will take this opportunity to critique the politicized nature of this year’s Oscars, which saw stars openly criticise politicians and speak out about equal rights issues.

However, the more likely option is that this report merely shows how television viewership is changing. Nielsen’s data only shows television viewership; it does not include information about those viewers who streamed the show online or watched on a mobile device.

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The ratings also proved that, despite the drop in viewers, ABC was still the most popular channel of the evening. Their telecast of the Oscars picked up more viewers than of the other ‘Big Four’ American channels.

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While the Oscars may have lost viewers, it was still the most popular thing on TV. In essence, a flagging Oscars is nothing more than a mark of flagging television viewership in general.

Nielsen will release more viewing data later today.