Surprise End to Oscars Doesn't Deliver a Bigger Audience for ABC

  • Viewership of 32.9 million fell 4.4 percent from a year ago
  • ‘La La Land’ mistakenly named winner instead of ‘Moonlight’

Barry Jenkins and the cast accept the award for best picture for 'Moonlight' at the Oscars in Los Angeles on Feb. 26, 2017.

Photographer: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Despite one of the most dramatic endings in Academy Awards history, ABC’s broadcast of the Oscars garnered the smallest viewership in almost a decade.

The show drew 32.9 million viewers, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC said Monday in a statement. That was down 4.4 percent from the 34.4 million who tuned in a year earlier and the smallest audience since 2008, according to ratings data from Nielsen.

The telecast ended with an envelope mix-up that caused presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway to incorrectly give the best-picture statuette to producers of “La La Land.” The surprise twist: “Moonlight” had actually won. PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has led the balloting process for the awards for 83 years, apologized for the gaffe.

Like the Super Bowl, the Oscars is one of the few television events to drew big live audiences, allowing TV networks to charge a premium for commercials during the ceremony.

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