From the L.A. Times: The three-hour-plus show plunged to a record-low average of 32 million total viewers, according to early figures from Nielsen Media Research. That's a 21 percent dive from last year's ceremony, hosted by Ellen DeGeneres, and the least-watched Oscars since at least 1987. It sank even beneath the mark set by the 2003 Academy Awards show (33 million), which was marred by the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The worst news for academy officials might have come in the results for the age group most eagerly sought by TV executives. Sunday's show posted a 10.7 rating in the demographic of adults ages 18 to 49. Much blame might rest with the year's Oscar contenders, which, as [host Jon] Stewart noted, consisted of exceptionally dark films with limited popular appeal, such as 'There Will Be Blood' and best-picture winner 'No Country for Old Men.' Nothing lures viewers like blockbuster nominees; in 1998, the year 'Titanic' won best picture, the TV audience numbered 55.2 million. Schedule disruptions caused by the recent writers strike also might have hurt ABC's efforts to bang the promotional drums for the show. The Oscars at one time were linked with the Super Bowl as the twin emperors of broadcast TV ratings, the only perennial programs that could be relied upon to attract great masses of viewers. But whereas this month's Super Bowl on Fox attracted a record-high 97.4 million total viewers, the sheen clearly is off the Academy Awards. By way of comparison, the Oscars now routinely are out-rated by Fox's 'American Idol.' Just last month, the singing contest delivered its season-to-date high of 33.5 million total viewers. ABC officials, accustomed to bragging about Oscar numbers, on Monday could say only that the telecast humbled other award shows this season, including CBS' Grammy Awards (17.2 million) and NBC's strike-destroyed Golden Globes (6 million).