Glitz and glamour returned to the Emmys on Sunday night — and so did the viewers.
An average of roughly 20 million tuned in to the three-hour-plus kudocast on NBC, making it the second most-watched Emmy show in six years, according to Nielsen prelims. NBC Research estimates that 40 million-45 million watched at least part of the telecast.
“The 54th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards,” during which NBC’s “The West Wing” and “Friends” captured the top series prizes, delivered about 15% more viewers than last year’s twice-delayed show on CBS (which aired in early November). It was off by about 8% from the 2000 Emmycast on ABC (21.8 million), which ranks as the most-watched of the past six years.
Strong showing for the Conan O’Brien-hosted kudocast means the Emmys is this year’s third-most-watched awards program, trailing the Academy Awards (41.8 million) and Golden Globes (23.5 million) but ahead of the Grammys (19 million) and others.
In adults 18-49, the Emmys’ prelim score of 8.0/29 is up 29% in rating over last year’s 6.2/13 and the second best in four years.
NBC dominated the night, which saw the other major nets each offer up repeats of theatricals with male appeal. ABC’s “Armageddon” and NBC’s “The Fugitive” each averaged about 9 million viewers, while “Tomorrow Never Dies” settled for about 7 million on CBS.
National ratings for HBO’s “The Sopranos,” which aired its second episode of the season Sunday opposite the Emmys, won’t be issued until today, but it’s clear from overnight ratings that many flipped from the Emmys to the mob drama at 9.
In New York, for example, the Emmys went from a 17.0/24 metered-market rating at 8:30 to a 15.7/21 for the 9 o’clock hour. The awards show then rebounded to an 18.5/27 for the final hour of primetime.
And in prelim nationals from Nielsen, the 9 o’clock hour’s 6.8 rating in adults 18-34 was lower than either the 8 p.m. hour (7.2) or 10 p.m. hour (7.5).
NBC’s one-hour “Countdown to the Emmys” spec at 7, hosted by Katie Couric and Matt Lauer, averaged 6.9 million viewers and a 2.4/7 in adults 18-49, finishing second in its hour in key female demos.
An hour earlier, E! logged a 1.89 rating in metered-market overnights for its “Live From the Red Carpet” spec, featuring Joan Rivers and Melissa Rivers. That’s up 35% from last year’s more subdued ceremony.
Elsewhere on Sunday, the two-hour season premiere of “Charmed” on its new night delivered a strong 5.1/7 in metered-market overnights for the WB. Net’s overall Sunday average of 4.4/7 is its best since October 1996. Nationals will be released today.