As we all know, the ratings of the Oscars have been circling the drain for years. After the record low of 10.5 million viewers in 2021, the 2022 telecast rebounded slightly, for the second-worst all time ratings of 16.6 million viewers. But the ratings have been on a downward trend for the last twenty years, as they have with every other awards show and pretty much everything on TV in general. As much as people want to say “no one cares about the Oscars”, this isn’t true. It’s just that there is more stuff to watch now. Once upon a time, the Oscars were the only thing on Sunday night, but now we have nigh infinite options between streaming, DVRs, video games—let’s talk about the ENORMOUS impact people, especially younger people, choosing to game instead of watch is having on everyone’s ratings—and even real-time counterprogramming.
Case in point: the first season finale of The Last of Us airs on HBO Sunday night against the Oscars. The ratings for TLOU have been steadily rising ever since the premiere, and there is now legit concern—in some circles, among people who still fret over live TV ratings in the year of our lady 2023—that TLOU could take a bite out of the Oscars’ ratings.
It’s just about how we prioritize what to watch and when. TLOU has become A Show We Discuss, so people will feel pressure to watch the finale Sunday night, so they can participate in the cultural conversation on Monday morning. It’s not a water cooler show quite yet—ratings are good, but not Game of Thrones good—but there is undoubtedly overlap between people who will want to talk TLOU come Monday, and people who might tune into some, if not all, of the Oscars. But with the Oscars, it’s easier to catch up after the fact, to watch highlight clips on social media or Youtube a day or two after the event.
The television ratings for the Oscars have decreased over the years, but social media engagement remains high which is how you know people still care, even if they’re watching differently now. Regardless, I’m sure we’re bound for another “the Oscars’ ratings are in the toilet” conversation on Monday morning, just as HBO will undoubtedly be celebrating record-high viewership for the TLOU finale. These two things will be related, let’s see if anyone mentions it.
I have gotten some emails about TLOU. I am watching, but very slowly. I’ve played the games, I know where this is going, and I’m just not in a hurry to be that f-cking sad.
Live long and gossip,