Oscars Ratings Hit Major Low Despite Chris Rock Buzz

02/29/2016 AT 01:30 PM EST

Early ratings suggest the 2016 Oscars were lacking compared to past years, despite Chris Rock's highly-anticipated performance.

Based on Nielsen's overnight data from 56 large U.S. TV markets, the 88th annual Academy Awards averaged a 23.4 rating – down from last year's 25, according to the New York Times.

Even last year's ratings were unusually low, with the 2015 Neil Patrick Harris-hosted Oscars paling in comparison to the 27.9 ratings of the telecast in 2014.

If the numbers remain consistent in the afternoon nationals, that would put the three-and-a-half hour ABC telecast at an at least seven-year low, according to Entertainment Weekly.



Oscars Ratings Hit Major Low Despite Chris Rock Buzz| Oscars 2016, Chris Rock

Chris Rock

Kevin Winter / Getty

The drop comes despite the attention-grabbing controversy surrounding the lack of African-American nominees for the second year in a row. All eyes were on Rock, 51, in the months leading up to the award show, with many wondering how he would handle the #OscarsSoWhite controversy.

However, Rock has a successful track record with the Academy Awards, the Los Angeles Times reports. When he hosted the Oscars in 2005, 42.1 million tuned in.

That number has been topped only one time since, when Ellen DeGeneres acted as host in 2014, the Times reports.

Check out PEOPLE's full Academy Awards 2016 coverage and complete winners list!



Rocked packed a lot of zingers in his opening monologue, addressing not only the race-related controversy but sexism as well.

"I'm here at the Academy Awards. Otherwise known as the White People's Choice Awards," Rock began. "You realize if they nominated hosts, I wouldn't even get this job. You all would be watching Neil Patrick Harris right now."

He also addressed calls for him to have backed out of hosting, saying that his absence would not have halted the ceremony.

"How come it's only unemployed people that tell you to quit something? No one with a job ever tells you to quit. So, I thought about quitting ... but I realized, 'They're going to have the Oscars anyway. They're not going to cancel the Oscars because I quit. And the last thing I need is to lose another job to Kevin Hart."
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