Reeling at ratings

Emmycast draws smallest aud since 1990

You honor HBO shows, you get HBO ratings. That’s one possible explanation for an alarming year-to-year decline in the numbers for Sunday’s telecast of the Primetime Emmy Awards on ABC.

On a night when its major network rivals laid down with repeats in deference to a celebration of the industry’s best and brightest, this year’s Emmys on the Alphabet web averaged a mere 14 million viewers — the second smallest crowd on record for the event — and slid by more than 30% vs. last year’s show on Fox in key young-adult demos.

Kudocast won its three-hour block for ABC but was far from dominant, with a pro football overrun in the night’s opening hour helping CBS steal victory for the night.

In what some say resulted in little more than an infomercial for HBO, its programs including “Angels in America,” “The Sopranos,” “Sex and the City” and “Deadwood” ended up winning 32 statuettes — more than the six broadcast nets combined — after receiving a record 124 nominations.

While these programs may be critical darlings and popular in New York and Los Angeles, the pay cabler is still seen in only about one-third of American homes.

When it aired last December, mini “Angels in America” drew fewer than 4 million viewers, and “Deadwood” averaged fewer than 5 million. Even a show like “The Sopranos,” which occasionally drew more than 10 million viewers for its firstrun segs, pales in comparison to such top network dramas as “CSI” (25.6 million) or “ER” (19.5 million), which were shut out Sunday night.

There also may have been a feeling of been-there-done-that for some viewers who were put through the emotional wringer earlier in the year with the series finales of “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Sex and the City” — and opted not to expend more energy on their departed faves Sunday night.

According to prelim nationals from Nielsen, the three-hour Emmycast on ABC averaged 14.0 million viewers overall and a 4.7 rating/12 share in adults 18-49, down 22% in total viewers (from 17.9 million) and an even sharper 34% in adults 18-49 vs. last year’s show on Fox (7.1/19). Only the 1990 Emmys on Fox averaged a smaller aud than Sunday’s show.

By comparison, the 2004 Emmys don’t come close to stacking up with the top-rated awards shows of the past year, including the Oscars on ABC (43.5 million), the Golden Globes on NBC (26.8 million), the Grammys on CBS (26.3 million) and the Country Music Awards on CBS (20.8).

Show started slowly with an aud of 12.7 million in the 8 o’clock half-hour and never really picked up a head of steam, peaking at 9:30 with about 14.9 million, according to Nielsen.

Biggest year-to-year falloff came among teens (down 59%, 1.3 vs. 3.2) and adults 18-34 (down 45%, 3.5 vs. 6.4), while adults 50-plus declined by a more modest 4% (8.6 vs. 9.0).

For ABC, even a diminished Emmycast figured to provide a nice promotional platform for its new shows like “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” which have generated lots of preseason buzz.

Alphabet’s one-hour “Countdown to Emmys” spec at 7 was a bust (fourth-place 1.7/5 in 18-49, 6 million viewers overall). Cabler E! reported that its pre-show, hosted by Star Jones of “The View,” averaged a 1.92 overnight household rating (flat vs. last year and up a tad over 2002).

Elsewhere Sunday, CBS won the night with a big NFL overrun, “60 Minutes” and repeats of “Cold Case” and “CSI: Miami.” NBC did pretty well with a repeat of “Titanic” (3.3/9 in adults 18-49, 8.6 million viewers overall), while Fox’s repeat of “Speed” revved up a 2.2/6 in 18-49 and about 5 million viewers overall.

At the WB, week two of “Jack & Bobby” fell off quite a bit (1.2/3 in adults 18-49, 3.2 million viewers overall), retaining just 65% of its 12-34 demo lead-in from “Charmed” (1.5 vs. 2.3).

Frog fared better on Friday, where nationals released Monday show the season preem of “Reba” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 4.82m) was the night’s No. 1 program in femmes 12-34 (3.1/11).

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