Oscars TV audience rises to 43 million, best showing in a decade

LOS ANGELES, March 3 Mon Mar 3, 2014 2:31pm EST

LOS ANGELES, March 3 (Reuters) - Sunday's Oscar ceremony drew 43 million television viewers in the United States, delivering the biggest audience for the Academy Awards in a decade, broadcaster ABC said.

Nielsen ratings data on Monday showed the audience that watched slavery drama "12 Years a Slave" capture the best picture honor grew 6.4 percent from last year.

Producers' middle-of-the-road approach to the show with host Ellen DeGeneres gave the Walt Disney Co-owned network similar results among younger viewers compared with last year when they gambled with edgier comedian Seth MacFarlane as host.

Although the show featured only one prominent blockbuster, "Gravity," in the race for best picture, it was able to draw the biggest audience for the Oscars since 2004, when 43.6 million tuned in.

Producers gable with DeGeneres' low-key affair paid off after several years of experiments in an attempt to boost ratings and attract younger viewers.

Early data from Nielsen showed that viewers in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 age group declined by 1 percent from last year while that figure also grew by 1 percent in the 18-34 audience.

The show, which critics found humorous, inoffensive but at times dull, proved to be a smash on social media as DeGeneres' staged "selfie" with several stars in the audience set the record for most retweets on Twitter, surpassing 2 million.

Twitter Inc said that some 14.7 million Oscar-related tweets were sent worldwide during the telecast, while Nielsen's social media data overall social media activity around the ceremony increased by 75 percent from last year.