Freedman: How Many People Will Watch the 2019 Oscars?

Freedman: How Many People Will Watch the 2019 Oscars? article feature image
  • The 91st Academy Awards are on Sunday, Feb. 24 (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
  • Matthew Freedman breaks down the Oscars prop for how many people will watch the show.

Each day, I publish at least one quick-n’-dirty piece highlighting a favorite prop of mine. See my master list of 2019 prop bets for more information.

The 91st Academy Awards are tonight (8 p.m. ET, ABC), and some books have released Oscars props to supplement the odds to win each film category.

I’ve already written about my favorite Oscars props, and Chris Raybon has highlighted the one bet you’d be silly not to make for Best Picture.

But one more Oscars prop has caught my eye, so I’m breaking it down here.

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How Many People Will Watch the Oscars (per Nielsen Ratings)?

  • Over 26.5 million: +250
  • Under 26.5 million: -500

The Oscars ceremony is shaping up to be a total disaster. There’s no host. That’s unbelievable.

And the field of movies and thespians nominated for awards is rather mediocre.

If I had told you a decade ago that, in 2019, Adam McKay would be nominated for Best Director, Bradley Cooper for Best Actor and Lady Gaga for Best Actress, there’s a 100% chance you would not have believed me.

But this is the world we live in.

I have no idea why anyone would watch this, but at the same time I don’t understand why anyone watches anything.

But if you’re going to watch this show, that means that other people might also be watching it. And if that’s the case, why wouldn’t you bet that people are watching it?

In 2018, former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten was not at all good in his first season as the color analyst for Monday Night Football. But people still watched, sometimes just to see how bad he would be.

Similarly, millions of people might watch the Oscars just to see how bad it is.

And the numbers back up that idea. For years, the Oscars have felt relatively irrelevant, but people have still watched.

  • 2018: 26.5 million
  • 2017: 33.0 million
  • 2016: 34.4 million
  • 2015: 37.3 million
  • 2014: 43.7 million
  • 2013: 40.4 million
  • 2012: 39.5 million
  • 2011: 37.9 million
  • 2010: 41.6 million
  • 2009: 36.9 million

Not once in the past decade have fewer than 26.5 million people watched the Oscars. I’ve found data going back to 1986: Not once since then have the audience numbers dipped below that mark.

But a new low was reached last year, and for the past half decade there has been a clear downward trend. It’s easy to see why the betting market is so bearish on the Oscars.

Even so, I think there’s value on the over at +250. Anytime I can get plus odds to bet against something that has never happened before (or at least hasn’t happened in the past 33 years), I’m probably going to do it.

At +250, there’s a 28.6% implied probability that more than 26.5 million people will watch the Oscars. I think the true odds are closer to 40%, maybe even 45%.

I’d bet on over 26.5 million down to +200.

The Pick: Over 26.5 million (+250)

Matthew Freedman is the Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs. He has a dog and sometimes a British accent. In Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he’s known only as The Labyrinthian.

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