Broadway awards show draws smallest crowd to date

There was no NBA playoff game to contend with this time around, but the Tony Awards on CBS settled Sunday for an average aud of just 6 million viewers — the smallest crowd on record for the event.

Nielsen estimates that the three-hour kudocast from Gotham, again hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, earned a 1.0 rating/3 share in adults 18-49, down from last year’s 1.2/4 and also the lowest to date. The smallest overall audience prior to Sunday was 6.3 million in 2008, and the largest in the last five years was the 7.43 million for Harris’ first year in 2009.

Viewership drifted downward throughout the telecast, starting with about 7 million in the 8 o’clock half-hour before closing to about 5.4 million in the 10:30 p.m. half-hour when “Once” was awarded the prize for best musical.

In recent years, the Broadway kudocast had typically gone up against either an NBA finals or semifinal contest, but that wasn’t the case this year. Sunday’s biggest cable draw ratings-wise was the season premiere of HBO’s “True Blood,” which attracted 5.2 million viewers.

Looking closer at the Tony numbers, roughly 64% of the 18-49 audience was female, while about 74% of its total audience (4.44 million) was 50 or older.

The top Nielsen metered market was, as usual, New York City (9.8 household rating/15 share), followed by West Palm Beach (Fla.) at 7.3/11 and San Francisco (7.0/15) — all down from last year, even though that show faced the sixth and deciding game of the NBA Finals between Dallas and Miami.

And Sunday’s Tonys faced lackluster competition on the broadcast networks, with no entertainment series drawing even 6 million viewers and the top 18-49 scores coming from Fox’s repeat of “Family Guy” (1.6/4) and reality shows “Secret Millionaire” (1.5/5) and “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition” (1.5/4) on ABC and a repeat of “America’s Got Talent” on NBC (1.5/4).

Also of note on cable Sunday, A&E’s “Longmire” gained in key demos and held all of its premiere audience (4.1 million) in its second week, and AMC’s “Mad Men” drew 2.7 million for its season finale.

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