CBS show draws 28.4 million to dominate Sunday night

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Above: Justin Timberlake performs during the 55th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles (Photo by Christopher Polk/GettyImages)

The Grammy Awards remains one of the most popular annual events of the year, with Sunday’s telecast on CBS drawing 28.4 million viewers — the show’s second largest audience in 20 years.

No one expected the Grammys to approach last year’s stratospheric status, when 39.9 million viewers tuned in for a kudocast that aired one day after the passing of Whitney Houston, who had been scheduled to perform on the show. But Sunday night’s 28.4 million, a time zone-adjusted Nielsen estimate that includes the 11-11:30 p.m. non-primetime portion, is better than any other Grammy Awards has done since the 1993 show averaged 29.9 million.

The kudocast also did well in key demos despite expected year-to-year declines. The show’s 18-49 average (10.1/24) was well off from last year’s 14.1/33 but the second best since 2004. Similarly in adults 25-54, this year’s 11.1/24 is the second best in the same nine-year period.

Add in “60 Minutes” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 11.1 million viewers overall), and CBS doubled the combined 18-49 averages on the night of ABC, NBC and Fox (4.1).

Elsewhere, the competition may have to rethink scheduling original episodes opposite the Grammys, as both “Once Upon a Time” (2.2/5 in 18-49, 7.0 million viewers overall) and “Revenge” (1.4/3 in 18-49, 5.1 million viewers overall) were down sharply from their prior season averages for ABC. “Once” was off 8% from its most recent original of three weeks ago, and “Revenge” declined by 18% from its performance on the same night.

The net did well kicking off Sunday with a season high for “America’s Funniest Home Videos” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 7.3 million viewers overall), but couldn’t muster much enthusiasm closing out the night with the special “Revenge for Real” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 2.9 million viewers overall).

Fox also saw anchors “The Simpsons” (2.1/5 in 18-49, 4.3 million viewers overall) and “Family Guy” (2.4/5 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall) decline by 9% and 17%, respectively, vs. their most recent originals of two weeks ago. “Family” was the night’s No. 1 broadcast series in 18-49, though AMC’s winter premiere of “The Walking Dead” will likely rule as top dog among all series in the demo.

NBC aired an original “Dateline” (1.2/3 in 18-49, 5.7 million viewers overall), followed by a repeat of the recent special “Betty White’s 2nd Annual 90th Birthday” (0.6/1 in 18-49, 3.1 million viewers overall) and an encore of the 2005 special “SNL in the ’80s: Lost and Found” (0.8/2 in 18-49, 2.6 million viewers overall).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: CBS, 8.2/20; Fox, 1.8/4; ABC, 1.5/4; NBC and Univision, 0.8/2.

In total viewers: CBS, 24.5 million; ABC, 5.6 million; NBC and Fox, 3.5 million; Univision, 2.4 million.

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