A total of 40.3 million people watched in the US, providing a fillip for producers struggling to halt a slow but steady decline in viewers since 57.25 million tuned in to watch Titanic win 11 gongs in 1998.
MacFarlane's jokes about female nudity, domestic violence and Jews in Hollywood have led to vilification from commentators, but his "edgy" approach saw a 20% boost among viewers aged 18 to 34 and a dramatic 34% hike in male viewers in the same age range. Men aged 18 to 49 were up 18% for a show that has traditionally been more popular with women viewers.
Overseas, it is estimated that up to a billion people watched at least part of the show, though there are no official figures. The full ceremony is broadcast in more than 200 countries, according to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which stages the awards.
Commentators were swift to denounce MacFarlane for early number We Saw Your Boobs, quips about nine-year-old Quvenzhané Wallis's future dating prospects and the Chris Brown/Rihanna farrago and a skit riffing on the supposed proliferation of Jewish people in Hollywood. Margaret Lyons of the Vulture blog summed up the US response to MacFarlane's turn when she wrote:
It's frustrating enough to know that 77% of Academy voters are male. Or to watch 30 men and nine women collect awards last night. But MacFarlane's boob song, the needless sexualisation of a little girl, and the relentless commentary about how women look reinforced, over and over, that women somehow don't belong. They matter only insofar as they are beautiful or naked, or preferably both. This wasn't an awards ceremony so much as a black-tie celebration of the straight white male gaze.
US Jewish group the Anti-Defamation League labelled MacFarlane's sketch featuring Ted, the star of last year's hit comedy about a foul-mouthed talking teddy bear, "offensive and not remotely funny". In the skit, Ted mentions to Mark Wahlberg that if "you want to work in this town" you have to be Jewish.
National director Abraham Foxman said: "It only reinforces stereotypes which legitimise antisemitism. It is sad and disheartening that the Oscars awards show sought to use anti-Jewish stereotypes for laughs."
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