Nearly 26 million view Swift-fueled kudocast

This year’s Grammys seemed to have something for everyone, and it showed in the stellar ratings perf of CBS’ 3 1/2 hour telecast, the most-watched Grammycast since 2004.

Viewership of Sunday’s music kudofest was up by double digits in key demographics across the board, including a 35% hike in total viewers from last year’s telecast to an average of 25.8 million viewers, according to preliminary estimates from Nielsen. Viewership peaked in the 8:30-9 p.m. half-hour at 28.3 million.

The mainstream appeal of top nominees such as Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Green Day and the promise of elaborate perfs from those contenders as well as hitmakers Lady Gaga and Pink likely helped CBS pack the house. The Eye net also gave a massive promo push to the 3D tribute segment to Michael Jackson and its generational pairings such as Swift and Stevie Nicks and Elton John and Lady Gaga.

From the perspective of TV viewers, its all about the performance — not the awards themselves.

“The audience doesn’t really care who wins. You look back at previous Grammys and you ask anyone, ‘Who won album of the year,’ and nobody can tell you. What they will say, however, is that Prince opened the show, and Beyonce blew the roof off the place,” said Jack Sussman, CBS exec veep of specials and the steward of the Eye’s live events.

In adults 18-49, the Grammycast was up 32% from last year to an impressive 9.8 rating/24 share — which is in the neighborhood of “American Idol” on a good night. The show also spiked 32% in adults 18-34 (9.1/24) and 36% in adults 25-54 (10.6/24).

The 2004 Grammycast topped out with an average of 26.2 million. Grammy’s total viewer tally hit a contempo low of 17 million in 2006 but has increased three of the past four years.

A surge of interest from country music fans may have also boosted the turnout, with Swift contending in a number of top categories. Country-rockers the Zac Brown Band was a favorite — and ultimately prevailed — in the new artist category.

As has often been evidenced on “American Idol,” when a contestant from the South is in contention (think Carrie Underwood or Taylor Hicks), viewer totals tend to skyrocket. For example, the Dixie Chicks and Underwood were the big winners of the night in 2007, when 20 million tuned in.

This year’s Grammys are the latest in a trend of recent kudocasts that have seen viewer growth, especially in the music business. The American Music Awards logged its highest aud since 2002 with 14.2 million when it aired on ABC in November; also in November on the Alphabet, the Country Music Awards drew 16.8 million, its largest aud since 2005.

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