Plenty of Oscars Drama, but Disappointing Ratings

The Academy Awards had their most chaotic conclusion ever on Sunday night, but a relatively small audience was watching it.

The ceremony, broadcast on ABC, drew 32.9 million viewers, the second-lowest total since Nielsen started tracking viewership in 1974.

This is the third straight year of declining viewership for the show, and the ratings hit is a significant one: In the last three years, the Oscars have shed more than 10 million viewers.

The only Oscars broadcast to fare worse was the 2008 show, which had 32 million viewers and aired shortly after a writers’ strike had ended.

Last year, ABC secured broadcast rights for the show until 2028 — at a cost of roughly $75 million a year — and through the contract negotiations, the network was given a bit more creative input into the show. To wit, ABC got the host it long wanted: its late night…