NEW YORK — An estimated 36.3 million people watched this year's Academy Awards, an increase of more than 4 million from last year's least-watched Oscars ceremony ever.
While ABC was heartened by the larger audience, especially among younger viewers, there are still only two Oscar telecasts on record with fewer viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research.
Last year, when "No Country For Old Men" won best picture, the telecast was seen by 32 million people. The 2003 telecast, with "Chicago" as the best picture winner, was seen by 33 million people.
Hugh Jackman was the host of Sunday's show, where "Slumdog Millionaire" was the big winner. Among the earlier awards on the telecast was the late Heath Ledger's best supporting actor prize for "The Dark Knight."
At a time that the TV audience is fragmenting, Sunday's audience was the biggest for any prime-time entertainment program in two years, ABC said. The Golden Globes was seen last month by just under 15 million people.
The largest Oscars audience on record was in 1998, when 55.2 million watched "Titanic" win best picture.