Music kudos return to Gotham next year

It’s official: The Grammys are moving to Gotham — and to Sundays.

Recording Academy topper Michael Greene rode a New York City yellow cab right onto the stage at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday to confirm that the music industry’s biggest kudofest will return to the Big Apple on Sunday, Feb. 23, after a four-year stint in Los Angeles.

Announcement, which was attended by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Charles Schumer, CBS Television head Leslie Moonves and several other government, media and music luminaries, reps a major victory in Gotham’s efforts to woo big events to the city and boost its economy, which has been battered by recession and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“We had a terrible tragedy that befell us, and that’s a good reason for them to come here and show some solidarity with New York,” Bloomberg said. “But the other reason to be here is that this is still the capital of culture in the whole world and certainly the capital of music; this is where the Grammys belong.”

Sunday incentives

As with the shift to Sundays by the Oscars a few years back, the change by the Grammys from its traditional Wednesdays offers several advantages for both the Recording Academy and CBS, which has aired the kudocast since 1973.

Aside from being one of the strongest nights of the week for TV ratings, Sunday’s primetime slot traditionally starts an hour early, giving the Grammycast a little extra breathing room, said Bill Carroll, VP of programming at Katz Media.

Broadcast also falls during the all-important February sweeps period, giving CBS a strong platform to promote other shows.

“Whenever you have major-event programming, it also ends up being watercooler programming — stuff that everybody is talking about the next day,” Carroll said. “When you have that, it’s a unique opportunity to reach audiences that you may not normally have on your network.”

Ratings reversal?

This year’s kudocast pulled in an average of just under 19 million viewers, with a 9.0 rating and a 23 share of the closely watched 18-49 bracket. That was down nearly 30% from the previous year, but CBS’ Moonves is optimistic that the new night and venue change will help give the ratings a goose in 2003.

“Think about this: The music industry’s biggest showcase will be broadcast on television’s most-watched night, from the country’s biggest city in the world’s most famous arena,” he said.

The Grammys have spent the last four years on the West Coast, first at Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium and later at the Staples Center. Greene moved the event out of New York in 1997 after a highly publicized dust-up with former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.

The Recording Academy chief reportedly upbraided a Giuliani aide during preparations for the show, arousing the ire of the fiercely territorial mayor. But Greene said Wednesday that Bloomberg called just days after he was elected in November “with a passion of spirit and with humility” to lobby hard for the show’s return.

The Recording Academy estimates the awards show will benefit the New York-area economy to the tune of between $35 million and $40 million. There will be nearly a month’s worth of activities leading up to and following the main show, including a host of lavish record-industry fetes, the MusiCares benefit banquet and more than 100 other charity and community events.

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