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The Myth Of The Billion Viewers


My wife and some friends are watching the Oscars so I am exposed to them every time I wander into the kitchen/dining/living room for a refill/top off/ice cubes. On my last trip I overheard a presenter on the TeeVee doing some kind of shtick where she said something to the tune of, "Really? You're going to do that to me in front of a billion people?"

This caught my attention because one billion people are not watching the Oscars. The "one billion" statistic is one of those untruths that has become "true" simply because people keep repeating it. Kind of like one of those insane, groundless, fact-free emails that your dad keeps forwarding you. Anyway, I was reminded of a great piece I'd once read by Daniel Radosh in the New Yorker (2005) wherein he sets the record straight and explores the history of the "one billion" figure:

But the worldwide audience for the Oscars isn’t even close to a billion, as a little common sense makes plain. In the United States, 43.5 million people watched the show last year. That’s a lot, but it’s 956.5 million short of a billion. Can the show really pick up that many viewers in countries that most of the films and people being honored are not from, and where the speeches are in a language that most of the population does not speak?

via The Pictures: One Billion : The New Yorker.

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