Brendan O’Neill Brendan O’Neill

No wonder viewers are boycotting the Oscars

Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars (Getty images)

The Oscars are in trouble. People are switching off in their millions. A paltry 9.85m Americans tuned in to the 93rd Oscars on Sunday evening. Film and TV execs will be tearing their hair out. They go to all that trouble to put on a night of glamour and back-slapping and the little people don’t even bother to watch?

The really surprising thing, of course, is that anyone is surprised. The Oscars has become insufferable in recent years. It’s gone from being a celebration of celluloid achievement to a three-hour finger-wag at the masses about everything from climate change to racial awareness. Why on earth would your average American tune in to be lectured by a luvvie wearing a dress that cost more than his car?

This year’s ceremony was different, of course. Covid made sure of that. It was smaller than normal, and more subdued. Also, not many people have been to the cinema over the past year — though we’ve all been watching movies on streaming services — so maybe there isn’t much appetite for a long night of film talk. That is no doubt one of the reasons why, hilariously, the audience in the US was less than a third of the number of Brits who tuned in to see Angie tell Den she had cancer on EastEnders in 1986.

But there’s something else going on, too. Oscars viewing figures have been in freefall since 2014. The 9.85m brave souls who endured the ceremony on Sunday night represented a staggering 58 per cent drop on last year’s ceremony, which was watched by 23.6m people in the US. And last year was a drop on the year before, when almost 30m people tuned in. For most of the 2000s the viewing figures hovered around the 40m mark — since 2014 they have fallen to 30m, 20m, and now less than 10m.

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