The Emmy Awards on Fox turned out to be a ratings bust Sunday night, as TV’s biggest night settled for one of its smallest audiences on record.
One year after NBC shifted the kudocast to late August because of an obligation to air football on Sunday nights in September, the TV Acad may have wished it had retained the date: Opposite a high-profile NFL contest on NBC this year, the Emmys settled for second place on the night.
According to preliminary Nielsen estimates, the 59th annual Primetime Emmys averaged 13.1 million viewers from 8 to 11 p.m. Sunday, down from the 16.2 million who watched on NBC a year ago and substantially lower than the 18.7 million that CBS attracted in 2005.
The only Emmy Awards to draw a smaller audience is the 1990 telecast, also on Fox, which averaged 12.1 million viewers.
Sunday’s Emmy viewership puts it well behind the other top kudocasts of the past 12 months, led by the Academy Awards (40.2 million on ABC) but also including the Grammy Awards on CBS (20.1 million), the Golden Globe Awards on NBC (20 million) and the Country Music Assn. Awards on ABC (16 million).
While there were ratings declines in most major markets, the biggest drop came in Boston, where this year’s household rating for the Emmys (7.4) was less than half of what it pulled in last year (15.6). Not only were Beantown’s Patriots playing the San Diego Chargers on NBC’s “Sunday Night Football,” but its Red Sox were playing a key late-season game against the New York Yankees on ESPN.
Gotham’s household rating for the Emmys declined 26% year-to-year (12.8 vs. 17.2), while L.A.’s numbers declined by 11% (12.4 vs. 14.0).
NBC beat the Emmys head-to-head despite the lopsided NFL game, with football expected to produce an average audience of 14 million-15 million.
In adults 18-49, football should come in with about a 6.5 rating/16 share, with the Emmys netting a 4.3/11 — down 17% from last year’s telecast on NBC (5.2/13).
News wasn’t good, meanwhile, for Fox’s country music-themed docusoap “Nashville,” which hit a low ratings note with its debut on Friday night.
The first new fall series to bow, “Nashville” settled for a 1.0 rating/3 share in 18-49 and 2.68 million viewers overall from 9 to 10 o’clock, falling off from its “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” lead-in (1.5/6 in 18-49, 4.99m).
Numbers put the show behind the CW’s “Friday Night Smackdown,” USA’s “Monk” and repeats on ABC and NBC.