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Ellen DeGeneres' celeb-studded selfie from the most-watched Oscars telecast in a decade was a landmark social media moment at a time online conversation is boosting television viewership and vice versa.
It's also a murky example of what is or isn't product placement in a hyper-marketed world. Would the world's most retweeted photo have been shot by an iPhone if Samsung hadn't been a commercial sponsor of the Academy Awards?
An estimated 43 million people watched ''12 Years a Slave'' win the Oscar for best picture on Sunday night. It was the most-watched Academy Awards since 2004, when ''Lord of the Rings: Return of the King'' was the best picture. And it was the most popular entertainment event on TV since the ''Friends'' finale that year. The Oscars are generally the most-watched TV event of the year after the Super Bowl.
Oscar night was also big for Jimmy Kimmel. The ABC late-night star drew just under 7 million viewers for his post-Oscars special, the biggest audience he's ever gotten on ABC, despite starting at 12:42 a.m. on the East Coast.
The ratings provide further evidence of how big event programming is a growth engine for broadcast networks, in large part because of fans watching the event and conversing with friends on tablets and smartphones. Twitter said that some 14.7 million tweets mentioning the Oscars or prominent actors and films were sent out during the Sunday night telecast, and Facebook said there were 25.4 million interactions about the show.
Social media was clearly a driving force Sunday and is why live events on networks ''have become basically the currency,'' co-producer Neil Meron told The Associated Press.
''What it's all about right now is creating a conversation, and social media allows for the conversation as it's happening,'' he said.
No social media moment was bigger than when host DeGeneres briefly caused Twitter to crash after going into the audience and asking Bradley Cooper to take a picture with several other stars crowding around. Besides Cooper and DeGeneres, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt also crowded into the frame. She asked viewers to help her set a retweet record, and they quickly complied.
By Monday afternoon, it had been retweeted some 2.8 million times, shattering the previous record of 810,000 retweets for the photo of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama hugging after the 2012