Roughly 40 million tune in to music's biggest night

One night after the music world lost one of its biggest stars, auds flocked to the Grammy Awards on CBS, which drew in the neighborhood of 40 million viewers – a 28-year high for the show and a larger audience than four of the last six Academy Awards telecasts.

Viewership was high at the outset with about 40.1 million, according to Nielsen, and peaked in the 9:30 p.m. half-hour with 43.1 million. The opening half-hour included the planned opening number by Bruce Springsteen as well as a prayer for the late Whitney Houston, read by host LL Cool J.

The preliminary primetime scores for the Grammy Awards (14.4 rating/32 share in adults 18-49, 41.1 million viewers overall) are expected to go down when full-duration averages are revealed later this morning; the show didn’t conclude until 11:30 and the final half-hour is traditionally the least-watched. Last year, the full show averaged a 10.0/27 in 18-49 and 26.7 million viewers overall.

Last year’s Oscars telecast on ABC did an 11.8/30 in adults 18-49 and 37.9 million viewers overall.

The largest audience ever for the Grammys was the 43.9 million who watched in 1984 as Michael Jackson moonwalked his way to a sweep of the major awards.

There wasn’t much else happening Sunday on competing broadcast networks opposite the Grammys, though ABC’s 8 o’clock rookie drama “Once Upon a Time” put up a fight (3.0/7 in 18-49, 8.6 million viewers overall) – below average but a demo score that was roughly equal to the combined delivery of NBC and Fox for the hour. Not holding up well were the net’s 9-11 p.m. dramas, “Desperate Housewives” (1.8/4 in 18-49, 6.3 million viewers overall) and “Pan Am” (0.7/2 in 18-49, 2.7 million viewers overall), each of which plummeted to lows. In addition the Grammys, “Housewives” had to contend with drama competition from AMC’s season premiere of “The Walking Dead,” ratings for which will be released later today or Tuesday.

With so many viewers coming to the set at 8 p.m. for the Grammys, shows airing in the 7 o’clock hour seemed to benefit. “60 Minutes” on CBS averaged a 2.9/8 in 18-49 and 14.5 million viewers overall, surging in its second half-hour with a segment on singer Adele, who turned out to be the big winner on the awards show. NBC averaged a 1.6/4 in 18-49 and 6.8 million viewers overall for its two-hour “Dateline” from 7 to 9, the show’s best demo score for a Sunday edition since August 2009 and its largest overall Sunday audience since February 2009; the opening hour, featuring coverage of Whitney Houston, did a 2.0/5 in 18-49 and 8.4 million viewers overall. And ABC saw “America’s Funniest Home Videos” hit a one-year high (2.0/5 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall).

Fox aired an encore of “Bob’s Burgers” at 7 (0.7/2 in 18-49, 1.9 million viewers overall) followed by original episodes of “The Cleveland Show” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 2.7 million viewers overall), “The Simpsons” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 4.3 million viewers overall), “Napoleon Dynamite” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 3.8 million viewers overall), “Family Guy” (2.5/5 in 18-49, 3.2 million viewers overall) and “American Dad” (1.7/4 in 18-49, 3.5 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 11.5/27; ABC, 1.9/4; Fox, 1.7/4; NBC, 1.5/4; Univision, 1.1/2.In total viewers: CBS, 34.5 million; ABC, 6.4 million; NBC, 5.3 million; Fox, 3.6 million; Univision, 2.6 million.

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