Oscars 2023 Score One Last Victory: Good Ratings

A funny thing happens when you award Oscars to a group of well-liked films, give emotional acceptance speeches some time onstage, and make some history in the process: more people tune in to watch. 

That seems to be what happened, at least, at the Oscars 2023, which according to early Nielsen ratings published by Variety drew 18.7 million viewers, a 12% boost from last year. Once accounting for time-shifted viewing the awards could get to nearly twice the ratings the 2021, pandemic-affected Oscars had, a record low for the ceremony. And the ceremony easily bested its biggest Sunday night competition: the season finale of The Last of Us, which drew 8.2 million viewers according to HBO.

These numbers, of course, only capture a very small part of the picture, not only ignoring the reality of time-shifted viewing but the online methods through which so many people experience the Oscars these days. Brendan Fraser’s best actor acceptance speech, for example, has been watched 1.2 million times on ABC’s official YouTube clip; who knows how many of those viewers are also included in the official Nielsen ratings, or how many more may be added in the days to come. 

The Oscars have a contract to air on ABC through 2028, though, which means we have five more years — and up to the Oscars’ 100th anniversary — to discuss their linear TV ratings and how much they matter. For now, we’ll take the public interest in a slap-free ceremony as a sign that the Oscars themselves are still a draw in and of themselves.