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HOLLYWOOD, Calif. -
Viewership for ABC's coverage of the Oscars increased 2.4 percent from last year to 40.3 million, the most since 2010, according to preliminary figures released Monday by Nielsen.
Viewership was up 11 percent from last year among viewers ages 18-49, the group ABC, Fox and NBC target and advertisers covet because it watches less television and is harder to reach; 20 percent among viewers ages 18-34; and 34 percent among men ages 18-34.
The increase among young adults, especially men, is likely the result of Seth MacFarlane serving as host, succeeding Billy Crystal.
This was the second time since 2008 the average viewership topped 40 million.
The Oscars' viewership increase -- and Grammys' decrease Feb. 10 -- will likely allow it to reclaim the title of television's most-watched entertainment program.
A year ago, the Grammys topped the Oscars for the first time since 1984, averaging 39.9 million viewers compared to 39.34 million for the Oscars.
Viewership for CBS' Grammys coverage dropped to 28.38 million this year, still its second-largest audience over the past 20 years.
The most-watched ceremony since individual viewership figures began being kept in 1974 was in 1998, when 55.25 million tuned in to see the then-box office record-setter "Titanic" win best picture honors as Crystal hosted.
Final figures are scheduled to be released Tuesday, but are not expected to change significantly from those released Monday.