Entertainment

Oscars pull in 19.5 million viewers, marking best ratings in 4 years

Viewership peaked in the final half-hour, when Ryan Gosling performed “I'm Just Ken” from “Barbie" and ”Oppenheimer" won three of the four top awards.

Ryan Gosling performs the song "I'm Just Ken."
Ryan Gosling performs the song "I'm Just Ken."
Chris Pizzello / AP
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"Barbenheimer" brought a bump, not a boom, to Oscars ratings.

An estimated 19.5 million people watched Sunday night's 96th Academy Awards ceremony on ABC. That's the biggest number drawn by the telecast in four years.

But that upward trend comes from an all-time low during the pandemic, and is up just 4% from last year's estimated audience of 18.7 million, according to numbers released Monday by ABC.

The Academy experimented with starting this year's show an hour earlier, and for the first time in years had many nominations for huge hit movies that viewers had actually seen — "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer."

The viewership peaked in the final half-hour, when Ryan Gosling performed "I'm Just Ken" from "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" won best actor, best director and best picture.

For many years, the Oscars were often the second most-watched television program of the year behind the Super Bowl. Until 2018, the Oscar telecast had never slipped below 30 million viewers, according to Nielsen records. The high-water mark was the 55 million people who watched "Titanic" clean up in 1998.

From the 43.7 million who watched in 2014, viewership declined steadily to 26.5 million in 2018, then went back up to 29.6 million in 2019, and 23.6 million in 2020. The bottom fell out with the pandemic-diminished show in 2021, seen by 9.85 million. It began rebounding in 2022 — the year of "the Slap" — with 16.6 million.

Watch Ryan Gosling's 'I'm Just Ken' performance at the Oscars
Watch Ryan Gosling's 'I'm Just Ken' performance at the Oscars

Watch Ryan Gosling's 'I'm Just Ken' performance at the Oscars

Have you seen it? This epic performance had everyone on their feet. Scroll down to watch Ken bring the heat at the Oscars.

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