UPDATED: Nielsen’s national ratings have come in, and the 81st Annual Academy Awards on ABC averaged 36.3 million viewers with a 12.1 rating among adults 18-49 on Sunday. It increased viewership by 13% by total audience over last year when both slumped to a record low. But this was still the third least viewed Oscar telecasts on record.

In a 2009 to 2008 comparison, the Oscars built its ratings and reach by 4.3 million viewers (36.3 vs. 32.0 million), 13% among adults 18-49 (12.1 vs. 10.7) and as high as 22% among men 18-34 (8.9 vs. 7.3).  So Oscars producers Larry Mark and Bill Condon, as well as host Hugh Jackman, and director Roger Goodman, and designer David Rockwell, did AMPAS proud by at least reversing the recent downward ratings and viewership spiral.

Earlier today, Nielsen’s overnight metered market ratings showed a 6% ratings jump in the 50 or so biggest U.S. markets over 2008. New York delivered the largest rating Sunday (34.1/49 share), followed by Chicago (31.2/46) and Los Angeles (28.1/44). For the night, ABC beat the combined household delivery of CBS, NBC and Fox by roughly 30%.

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