With the exception of NFL football games, live TV viewing has declined across the board as viewers turn to streaming shows on demand or spend time on TikTok and Twitter. The Emmys and Grammys also posted record low viewership during the pandemic.
In addition, ratings data do not capture all of the viewership on streaming.
At this year’s Oscars, music will be back with performances by superstars Beyoncé, Billie Eilish and others.
Organisers also hope to highlight some of the year’s biggest movies by announcing the results of two fan polls conducted on Twitter for favourite film and best film moment.
Recent nominations have tended to focus on art house titles. This year’s most-nominated movie, The Power of the Dog, is a psychological thriller that streamed on Netflix about a cruel ranch owner in the American west.
Producers are aiming to keep the show to three hours. Some years it has stretched beyond four.
To help keep within the time limit, winners of eight awards, including sound and production design, will be announced inside the Dolby Theatre before the TV broadcast. Edited recordings of their speeches will be played during the telecast.
The change sparked a backlash from Steven Spielberg and others who said it was a slight to craftspeople who are critical to bringing movies to the screen.
“They are trying to make the show punchier and shorter,” said Nigel Smith, movies editor at People magazine.
“Hopefully, that's the kind of show we're going to be seeing, something surprising and new and fresh.”
If ratings decline further, he said, “they are going to have to go back to the drawing board”.