Oscars 2014 reaches ratings high

Story highlights

  • The 86th Academy Awards reached a 10-year ratings high
  • Award shows have enjoyed a ratings resurgence thanks to social TV
  • Ellen DeGeneres' celebrity selfie set a Twitter record

The Academy Awards continued its upward climb in the ratings on Sunday, reaching a 10-year high with an average audience of 43 million viewers in the United States.

The awards telecast, typically the year's No. 2 television event behind the Super Bowl, has grown its total audience for each of the past three years, despite perennial complaints about its length (this year the show clocked in at 212 minutes). Last year, the Oscars averaged 40.4 million viewers.

Award shows in general have been enjoying a ratings resurgence, partly because of the popularity of so-called "social TV," the tendency for viewers to chat along with live TV on Facebook and Twitter. The Golden Globes scored its biggest audience in a decade in January, and the Grammys set what was essentially a modern-day ratings record in February.

The producers of Sunday's Oscars telecast and the host, Ellen DeGeneres, stoked the "social TV" phenomenon with a much-tweeted celebrity selfie. Twitter said it registered upwards of 14.7 million messages about the telecast on Sunday night.

ABC said the 43 million viewer total for the Oscars was the awards show's best since 2004, when "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" won best picture. In a key advertising demographic for the network, adults 18 to 49, the show had a 12.9 rating, down one-tenth of a point from last year.

The network also said that its special after-the-Oscars edition of "Jimmy Kimmel Live" grew its audience for the third year in a row, just like the awards telecast. The talk show averaged 6.99 million viewers.