The final numbers aren’t in yet but based on the metered market rating, it looks like last night’s Oscars will set an all-time low in the number of viewers. From the Hollywood Reporter:

Overnight returns have the lengthy ABC telecast averaging a 18.9 overnight rating among households between 8 and 11 p.m. ET. Compared to the same stat for 2017, the night the wrong best picture winner was named, that’s down a significant 16 percent. That number doesn’t yet reflect the hour of the show where the biggest awards were handed out.

The 2017 Academy Awards, which earned a 22.4 overnight rating, ultimately fetched 32.9 million viewers for ABC — as well as a handsome 9.1 rating among adults 18-49. Still, those numbers reflected the second-lowest in Academy history — which bodes particularly troublesome for Sunday’s show. The previous all-time low Oscars took place in 2008, when only 31.8 million viewers tuned in.

The night was not as political as many recent award shows, with showings of partisanship few and far between. The fallout and response to the exposure of sexual harassment and assault in the entertainment industry was an obvious through line — and honorees like best actress winner Frances McDormand made stands for inclusivity and representation in the industry. Host Jimmy Kimmel seems to have earned praise for another solid performance during his second consecutive year on stage.

There are some caveats here. The full show ran nearly 4 hours and the final hour, when all of the big winners including best picture were announced, is not been included in the metered ratings released so far. So the actual numbers are probably somewhat better than this appears and that should be reflected in the final viewership tally. Still, it appears this year is likely to be down from last year which was already a 9-year-low. We’ll have to wait and see until the viewership numbers are released. Deadline points out that 2005 and 2014 set the high water mark this century:

The best that Hollywood’s big night has done in the first round of ratings over the past decade-plus was back in 2005. That show, hosted by Chris Rock, got a 30.1 metered market households. Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby won Best Picture that year, and the broadcast went on to score 42.1 million viewers in the final number. With 12 Years a Slave winning Best Picture, the 2014 Oscars fronted by Ellen DeGeneres (27.9 metered market HH rating) drew the biggest overall audience of the 21st century, with 43.7 million tuning in.

The Oscars seem forever determined to give the big awards to small, preachy films that don’t make much money. Looking at those rating numbers above, I realize 2014 was one of the few years where I had seen nearly all of best picture nominees. This year I saw just four of the 9 films nominated including The Shape of Water which I watched last night instead of the Oscars.

But the Hollywood Reporter points out that the general trend has been bad for big event television this year, with the Super Bowl, Grammys, and Golden Globes all down compared to last year. Could partisan politics play a role in this? Maybe. The big news from the Golden Globes this year was Oprah speech, followed by speculation that she might run for president. And of course the host this year and last year was Jimmy Kimmel who has become increasingly political in the past year, making the case for Obamacare and attacking President Trump on a nightly basis.

Perhaps not coincidentally, the lowest ratings for the Oscars in recent years was 2008 when the show was hosted by another outspoken progressive host, Jon Stewart. Finally, it’s worth noting that last night’s big winner is a well-made but ham-fisted attack on early 60s America. If you don’t mind major spoilers, Ed’s review of The Shape of Water is here. I’ll post the final viewership tally when it becomes available later today.

Update: From the AP, it’s officially a record low.