Ratings for the Oscars have fallen to an eight-year low

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The number of people watching the Academy Awards has dipped to its lowest level since 2008.

The poor showing came in a year when the Academy came under fire for the #OscarSoWhite diversity controversy.

The Nielsen company said on Monday that preliminary estimates showed 34.3 million people watched Sunday night’s broadcast, where Spotlight won best picture.

Tom McCarthy, centre left, and Michael Keaton, centre right, accept the award for best picture for Spotlight at the Oscars
Tom McCarthy, centre left, and Michael Keaton, centre right, accept the award for best picture for Spotlight at the Oscars (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

Last year’s show was seen by 37.3 million people.

Since 1990, only two Academy Awards broadcasts had fewer viewers: in 2008, when No Country For Old Men won best picture, and in 2004, when Chicago was honoured.

The peak came when Titanic won a boatload of awards in 1998 and 55 million people tuned in.

Kate Winslet and James Cameron with the best picture Oscar for Titanic in 1998
Kate Winslet and James Cameron with the best picture Oscar for Titanic in 1998 (Michael Caulfield/AP)

The paucity of minority nominees this year led to calls for a boycott among some black stars, including Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee.

But Nielsen did not immediately have any ethnic breakdown of Oscar viewership. Generally, the popularity of movies being honoured tends to be the biggest factor in whether the audience for the live telecast is up or down.

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio finally won his first Oscar this year (Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Chris Rock, in his second time hosting, hardly stayed away from the diversity issue. He peppered the audience with his first three jokes on the topic within 25 seconds.

The most recent awards shows, the Golden Globes and Grammys, also saw a decline in ratings. The Globes, which honour film and television, were seen by 18.5 million people, down from 19.3 million in 2015. The Grammy telecast hit a seven-year low in viewers.

Oscars host Chris Rock
Oscars host Chris Rock (Chris Pizzello/Invision)

For many years, the Oscars have been television’s biggest event after the Super Bowl.

The final half-hour of ABC’s pre-show telecast was watched by 22.2 million people, down from 23.8 million last year, Nielsen said.

Twitter marked a milestone, however: Leonardo DiCaprio’s best actor award generated 440,000 tweets in a minute, the fastest ever counted at the Academy Awards.

The previous Twitter highlight came two years ago when Ellen DeGeneres made her star-studded selfie.