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Oscar ratings continue to rebound with the biggest audience since 2020

Mike Blake/Reuters

The Oscars can extend some additional thank-yous to “Oppenheimer” and “Barbie,” as the awards continued to claw back viewers lost during the pandemic with the highest rating in four years, averaging 19.5 million viewers on Sunday night based on Nielsen data released Monday.

That figure represented a 4% gain over 2023. Last year’s Oscars added more than a million viewers on a seven-day basis thanks to delayed playback of the show, so the final audience will grow beyond the same-day figures reported by Nielsen.

The Oscars sank to an all-time low in 2021, a year that saw all award shows slump due to the pandemic. ABC has now registered increases regaining some of that audience in each of the last three years.

The Academy and ABC opted to go with an earlier start time this year, moving up the show an hour to 7 p.m. ET. The combination of that and the switch to Daylight Savings Time figured to depress viewing at the outset, with the hope that finishing by 10:30 p.m. ET would encourage more people to stick things through until the end.

That strategy appears to have been borne out. According to ABC, viewership of the awards peaked at 21.9 million viewers during the final half-hour. This year’s awards were hosted for the fourth time by Jimmy Kimmel.

The Oscars drew 23.6 million viewers in 2020, the last time the show cracked the 20-million plateau in same-day viewing, and at the time, a record-low performance.

Having more widely popular nominees, like “Barbie” and best-picture winner “Oppenheimer,” has long been seen as one way to enhance interest in the telecast.

An episode of the ABC comedy “Abbott Elementary” scheduled after the Oscars also posted a ratings high for that series, with 6.9 million viewers.

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