Oscars 2012, Cameron Diaz, ...
Credit: A.M.P.A.S.(r)

UPDATED: Did Billy Crystal rescue the Oscars?

Even with few box-office heavyweights in contention for top categories, Sunday night’s 84th Annual Academy Awards telecast rose slightly in the ratings from last year.

ABC’s awards coverage delivered 39.3 million viewers, up 4 percent from 2011, according to the network. In the adult demo, the show received an 11.7 rating, off a tenth from 2011. The program out-delivered three of the past four Oscars telecasts and ranked as ABC’s most-watched program in two years.

And yet, the Oscars were outshone in one respect: CBS’ mega-rated Grammys coverage earlier this month pulled a slightly bigger audience than the usually dominant Academy Awards, and totally stomped the Oscars in the adult demo. The music awards show, likely boosted by the death of Whitney Houston, had 39.9 million viewers, just barely edging out Sunday’s program. If last night’s viewership tally is sustained in Nielsen’s national ratings release tomorrow, it will mark the first year the Grammys drew a larger crowd than the Oscars since Nielsen started its current ratings system in 1992. Among adults 18-49, there was no contest: Grammys had a 14.1 rating to Oscars 11.7.

Here’s how the Oscars have fared in recent years:

— 2011: 37.9 million viewers / 11.8 adult demo rating (King’s Speech)

— 2010: 41.7 million viewers / 13.3 adult demo rating (Hurt Locker)

— 2009: 36.3 million viewers / 12.1 adult demo rating (Slumdog Millionaire)

— 2008: 32 million viewers / 10.7 adult demo rating (No Country for Old Men) — LOWEST

— 2007: 40.2 million viewers / 14.1 adult demo rating (The Departed)

— 1998: 55.2 million viewers (Titanic) — HIGHEST

Also Sunday night: CBS’ Amazing Race (7.6 million, 2.1) was down 25 percent this week (understandably). NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice (5 million, 1.8) was hammered down 31 percent (also understandably — if you like celebrities, are you going to watch Donald Trump’s Island of Broken Toys or the Oscars?).