Lisa de Moraes The Washington Post
William Shatner as Captain Kirk, first lady Michelle Obama as Jack Nicholson’s partner, Halle Berry as the Chrysler Building, Seth MacFarlane as host.
TV critics may have hated Sunday’s 85th Academy Awards, but 40.3 million viewers lapped it up, making it the most watched entertainment program on TV in nearly three years.
Even more important to broadcaster ABC: The Oscarcast scored a nearly three-year record among viewers between the ages of 18 and 49, who are the currency of TV ad sales.
In particular, the network boasted the show’s 34 percent year-to-year ratings spike among 18-to-34-year-old men, who are the elusive unicorns of the ad world. The broadcast attracted 13 percent of the country’s 18-to-49-year-olds.
History will credit MacFarlane, whose success at reaching that young-guy group with animated TV shows has made him a darling at Fox as well as at NBCUniversal, which distributed his like-minded box-office hit, “Ted.”
In truth, the age of the audience has a lot more to do with the movies in the running for best picture — and six of this year’s nine best-picture nominees topped $100 million in box office by Sunday’s ceremony.
The motion picture academy has been desperately trying to lure young viewers back to the trophy show, which led to the disastrous 2011 program when Anne Hathaway and James Franco co-hosted the show.
They wound up doing worse with viewers their age than did oldsters Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin the previous year.
And the most successful Oscars ceremony of the past decade among young viewers was the 2004 show; it attracted 15.3 percent of the country’s 18-to-49-year-olds.
That year’s host: Billy Crystal, and that year’s winning movie: “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”