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T.V. ratings improve for Oscar telecast

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NEW YORK (AP) -- An estimated 41.3 million people saw "The Hurt Locker" top the popular "Avatar" for best picture in the most-watched Academy Awards telecast since 2005.

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Oscar viewership was up 14 percent over last year, the Nielsen Co. said Monday, keeping with a trend of bigger audiences for major events on broadcast television a month after the Super Bowl set the mark for most-watched telecast ever.

In true film fashion, the Oscars built to a big climax when the Iraqi war thriller "The Hurt Locker" and its director, Kathryn Bigelow, topped "Avatar," directed by her ex-husband James Cameron. Bigelow was the first woman to win the Oscar for best director.

The audience was up from the 36.3 million who saw "Slumdog Millionaire" win best picture last year and 32 million -- Oscar's smallest audience on record -- in 2008, Nielsen said. The Oscars had just over 42 million watch in 2005.

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