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80th Oscars least watched since 1974
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Host Jon Stewart delivers a monologue during the 80th annual Academy Awards, the Oscars, in Hollywood February 24, 2008. [Agencies]

The 80th Annual Academy Awards telecast Sunday night on ABC pulled in a paltry 32 million viewers, averaging a 10.7 rating among adults 18-49, according to Nielsen Media Research estimates from 56 metered markets.

That was the least viewed Oscar cast since Nielsen started tracking the kudos-fest in 1974. The 2003 telecast, during which Chicago took home the best-picture honor, was the previous all-time low, clocking in at 33 million viewers.

The ceremony, hosted by Jon Stewart, was a hastily cobbled-together affair thanks to the 100-day Writers Guild of America work stoppage.

Although Stewart made a few WGA-themed jokes early in the telecast, the strike did not loom large over the evening. Rather, it was the dark nature of many of the nominated films and eventual winner No Country for Old Men that likely cast a pall of viewer interest in the telecast. Joel and Ethan Cohen’s bloody adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel took home statuettes for best picture, as well as producing, directing and adapted screenplay.

Juno, the lone feel-good best-picture nominee, settled for best original screenplay for Diablo Cody, who dedicated her award to the writers.

The telecast was down more than 20% compared with last year’s ceremony, when Martin Scorsese finally won an Oscar for directing The Departed. The 2007 ceremony was watched by more than 40 million people, averaging a 27.7 rating/42 share.

(Broadcasting & Cable February 26, 2008)

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