A best picture snafu at the Academy Awards and a twitter feud between actress Meryl Streep and President Donald Trump did nothing to lift the ratings slide for Walt Disney Co.’s (DIS) ABC network, which broadcast the 89th Academy Awards on Sunday.
According to Nielsen, which tracks ratings of television shows, the 2017 Academy Awards was viewed by 32.9 million people, which is 4.5% lower than last year's Academy Awards, when an average 34.47 million views watched the program. It’s the third year in a row the show had declines in viewership and the third consecutive year it didn’t reach the 40 million viewership goal. Not helping the cause is the fact that the biggest mistake in the history of the awards show happened at the end when the best picture award mistakenly went to the movie “La La Land” instead of the actual winner, “Moonlight.” Movie stars Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were given the wrong envelope and thus the big flub. The Academy Award telecast ended shortly after midnight Monday, which also hurt viewership.
Slightly Better Than 2008
The viewership numbers for the 2017 Academy Awards is just slightly higher than the record low when only 32 million people tuned in to watch the Academy Awards in 2008 amid a writer’s strike that severely damaged Hollywood. According to a report in USA Today the Oscars had record audiences in 1998 when 55 million people watched as “Titanic” won best picture. In 2008, the low point for viewership, “No Country for Old Men” won best picture.
For Disney, the poor ratings come at a time when its other properties are struggling. Take its fiscal first quarter earnings report, in which it reported quarterly earnings that beat analysts' expectations but revenue that fell short owing to prolonged weakness at its bread-and-butter sports network ESPN. The company was also hurt by the movie segment, which suffered from unfavorable comparisons because of the success of its release "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" last year. Plus, even with the beat on the bottom line, the results still marked a year-over-year decline. (See also: Disney's Weak Q1 Hurt by Soft ESPN Ad Revenue.)
While Disney-owned ESPN and ABC contributed to a 2% overall decline in cable network TV sales in the quarter, ABC-owned TV stations did benefit from more money spent on political ads during the fiscal first quarter which included the U.S. presidential election.