The 73rd Annual Academy Awards will go down in history as the lowest-rated telecast ever. ABC's coverage of the Oscars averaged a 26.2 rating/40 share in households, according to Nielsen Media Research, setting a new all-time low for the awards show.
1986's Academy Awards averaged a then-lowest 27.3 rating. Sunday night's telecast averaged 42.9 million viewers and 72.2 million people tuned into the coverage between 8:30-11:30 p.m. (ET), according to ABC estimates. It was the Oscar's lowest total viewer average in four years and was off 7% from last year's 46.3 million viewer average. The Steve Martin-hosted event was also down 7% from last year in adults 18-49 (17.8 rating vs. 19.1). ABC did see an increase in men 18-34, rising seven percent from 2000 to a 14.1. Meanwhile, more than 450,000 of those viewers tuned in for ABC's enhanced Oscars' content on its Web site for an average of nearly 40 minutes.
Aaron Barnhart, TV critic for the Kansas City Star, noted that Martin's "cool, urbane demeanor" to past Oscars hosts Bob Hope and Johnny Carson, but said "it felt slightly out of place in the hype-charged spectacle that the Oscars have become." Barnhart also suggested Martin may be regretting his line about 81-year-old producer Dino De Laurentiis. "Or," Martin said, "as Anna Nicole Smith calls him, fresh meat."
Adam Buckman, TV critic for the New York Post, said, Funnyman though he is, Martin seemed little more than a caretaker assigned to fill in until Billy decides to return." Buckman noted that Martin appeared to grow more comfotable with the role as the night wore on, but added, "that may have been because he was required to appear so rarely, popping up from time to time to introduce a presenter or deliver another one-liner, which turned out to be the only occasions for levity in a marathon Oscar-cast that, from a TV viewer's standpoint, was notably devoid of excitement."
- Joe Schlosser