Will Smith

How Many Viewers Watched the Oscars After the Will Smith Slap?

The controversial slap was the most talked-about occurrence of the night.

Will Smith, chris rock
Robyn Beck | Afp | Getty Images

What to Know

  • Viewership for all forms of programming has decreased in recent years, in part because of competition from streaming programs.
  • The Oscars' substantial viewership declines in recent years have also been attributed to the lack of box office success of the best picture nominees.
  • The most-watched Academy Awards ceremony was in 1998, when an average of 55.25 million viewers watched then-box office record-setter "Titanic'' win the best picture Oscar.

Viewership for ABC's Oscars telecast rose 55.9% to 15.36 million from last year's record low of 9.85 million, but was still the second-lowest on record, according to preliminary figures released Monday by Nielsen.

Final figures are scheduled to be released Tuesday, but are not expected to change significantly from those released Monday. The difference between preliminary and final figures for the Oscars is customarily between 100,000 and 300,000 viewers.

The final viewership figure for the 2021 ceremony was 10.403 million.

Will Smith confronted actor and comedian Chris Rock on stage after comedian made a joke about Smith's wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, at the 94th Annual Academy Awards.

The audience for Sunday's telecast from the Dolby Theatre was the largest for a prime-time entertainment program during the 27-week-old 2021-22 television season and the most for an ABC prime-time program since the 2020 Oscars averaged a then-record-low 23.639 million viewers.

Factors for the record-low viewership in 2021 included the ceremony being the first to be held outside the customary months of February or March since 1988 and the change in venue to Union Station. Both changes were caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Viewership for all forms of programming has decreased in recent years, in part because of competition from streaming programs.

The Oscars' substantial viewership declines in recent years have also been attributed to the lack of box office success of the best picture nominees.

The Oscar ceremonies since 2018 are the only ones to average less than 30 million viewers. Individual viewership figures have been kept since 1974. The Oscars have aired on ABC each year since 1976. The network's contract with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to air them runs through 2028.

Will Smith smacked actor and comedian Chris Rock on the Oscars stage and then won best actor for his role in “King Richard”; “CODA” won best picture at the Oscars; and more.

The most-watched Academy Awards ceremony was in 1998, when an average of 55.25 million viewers watched then-box office record-setter "Titanic'' win the best picture Oscar.

Sunday's awards show was not without its eye-grabbing moments.

In the biggest shocker of the show, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock across the face after Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith.

Rock turned to Pinkett Smith, Smith’s wife, and said, “Jada, I love you. ‘G.I. Jane 2,’ can’t wait to see it.”

The joke touched a nerve. Pinkett Smith, whose head is shaved, has spoken publicly about her alopecia diagnosis.

Alopecia is a disease where the body attacks its own hair follicles.

Pinkett Smith shook her head in dismay. That's when Rock reacted to Smith walking across the stage, and without warning slapped Rock.

Once Smith was back in his seat, he shouted, “get my wife’s name out your (expletive) mouth.” 

Shortly after, Smith was back on stage accepting his Oscar for his role in "King Richard."

He made a tearful speech, and said both he and his character based on Venus and Serena Williams' father were “fierce defenders” of family.

The Academy has since said it would conduct a formal review and condemns Smith's actions.

Smith also posted a public apology on Instagram.

Rock said he would not press charges.

Here is Smith's full statement:

"Violence in all of its forms is poisonous and destructive. My behavior at last night's Academy Awards was unacceptable and inexcusable. Jokes at my expense are a part of the job, but a joke about Jada's medical condition was too much for me to bear and I reacted emotionally.

I would like to publicly apologize to you, Chris. I was out of line and I was wrong. I am embarrassed and my actions were not indicative of the man I want to be. There is no place for violence in a world of love and kindness.

I would also like to apologize to the Academy, the producers of the show, all the attendees and everyone watching around the world. I would like to apologize to the Williams Family and my King Richard Family. I deeply regret that my behavior has stained what has been an otherwise gorgeous journey for all of us.

I am a work in progress."

Copyright CNS - City News Service
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