Oscars Late Night Big Winners Get a Smaller Audience

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Some of the biggest awards may have gotten some of the fewest viewers on ABC's Oscar telecast Sunday night  as the show went some 45 minutes past its scheduled 11:30 end time.

According to preliminary ratings--live event numbers are only an estimate since the early returns don't include some West Coast performances--the show averaged a 27.7 rating/42 share in households, which is still impressive in an increasingly fragmented market. It was also up from the 27.1/40 the show averaged in 2006, though down from 2005's 30.1/43.

ABC ordered another Oscar ratings report that provided a clearer picture. According to those numers, the show averaged 39.9 million viewers, up a well coiffed hair from last year's 38.9 million. It's adults 18-49 rating, a key demo for advertisers, the show was also up a tad to a 14 rating from last year's 13.9. The show did even better in the younger demo, up 8% in adults 18-34 to a 12.9 rating from last year's 12.0, its highest 18-34 rating in five years, according to the network.

ABC also pointed out it was the highest rated awards show of the season, topping the audience for the Emmys (16.2 million), Golden Globes (20 million) and Grammys (20.1 million)

While the show's rating was up, its ratings performance was in the shape of a bell curve, with the show starting off with a 25.6/37 rating at 8:30 for host Ellen Degeneres' monologue peaking at a 29.0/42 at 10 p.m., then falling back to a 25.6 at 11:30. Some of the biggest awards came after 11:30 p.m., including Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director--Martin Scorsese in the feel-good moment of the night--and Best Picture.

But at a 28-plus rating between 9 and 10 p.m., Jennifer Hudson got American Idol-like numbers for her trip to the podium to collect a Best Supporting Actress Oscar to complete her trifecta--she collected Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards as well.

The top five markets for Oscar ratings were Chicago (37.3/54), New York (35.2/52), San Francisco (35.0/57), Boston (32.3/51); and Kansas City (30.4/44).