Hugh Jackman’s song-and-dance wins over Oscar fans

CTV's broadcast of this year's Academy Awards peaked at 5.5 million viewers, and had a 4% gain in the 18-to-49 audience.

A handsome new host and secretive format change proved a success for the 81st Academy Awards, as Sunday’s CTV broadcast was, to date, the most-watched program of the year with 4.5 million viewers, according to preliminary data from BBM Nielsen Media Research.

Although it was up just 1% in total viewers from last year’s broadcast, the Oscars, hosted by Australian actor Hugh Jackman, grew 6% over last year among adults aged 25 to 54, and 4% among the younger 18-to-49 crowd that the star-studded show often courts. The broadcast peaked at 5.5 million viewers at 10:10 pm when the family of late actor Heath Ledger accepted his Best Supporting Actor Oscar for The Dark Knight. Nearly one in three Canadians (10.7 million) watched some of the program that included a number of song-and-dance numbers by Jackman and stars like singer Beyonce Knowles and actress Anne Hathaway.

According to CTV, the Oscar ad inventory sold out this year as usual, led by sponsor L’Oreal. Other advertisers that purchased time include Petro-Canada, Wal-Mart, Unilever, Toyota, Sony, Johnson & Johnson, Canadian Tire, Bank of Montreal, Loblaws and A&W, among others. Most Canadians stayed with the three-and-a-half hour broadcast to the very end, with 4.3 million tuning into the last half-hour when Slumdog Millionaire was named Best Picture, just before midnight.

In terms of ratings, the Oscars beat out other popular specials including this year’s Super Bowl game, also broadcast on CTV, and the 2009 IIHF World Junior Championship gold medal hockey game, which aired on TSN. Both sporting events tied in second place with 4.29 million viewers each.