Tony viewership slips

Star-packed wins didn't draw more eyes

While Sunday night’s Tony ceremony was a notably celeb-filled affair, the stars didn’t attract any more eyes to the kudocast than last year — and the flat figures seem another indication that efforts to pump up the national profile of the kudocast have stalled.

Late last week an ambitiously large-scale satellite celebration of the Tonys, set to take place at a major arts presenter in Arizona, was cancelled due to low sales. Planners have said they’ll try again next year, this time giving consumers a longer lead time to buy tickets. But the low turnout nonetheless indicated the challenge in attracting national interest in awards that honor the New York-centric industry of Broadway.

According to Nielsen, the 64th annual Tony Awards on CBS averaged a preliminary 1.2 rating/3 share in adults 18-49 and 7 million viewers overall from 8 to 11 p.m., peaking with 7.6 million viewers in its opening half-hour, which aired behind “60 Minutes” (9 million). This is down slightly from last year’s show (1.3/4 in 18-49 and 7.4 million viewers overall) but in line with its most recent five-year average. (As is often the case, the Tonys aired opposite the competition-crushing NBA finals.)

The Tonys remain the least-watched of the major kudocasts. And this year’s 7 million viewers came on the heels of improved numbers for most other awards shows — including the Academy Awards (41.7 million), the Grammys (25.9 million) and the Golden Globes (17 million).

Tonycast’s star-heavy lineup of winners, including Denzel Washington, Scarlett Johansson and Catherine Zeta-Jones, was augmented by high-profile presenters including Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren and Paula Abdul. Host (and “Promises, Promises” star) Sean Hayes brought pre-existing small screen cache from his work on “Will and Grace,” while two stars of hit Fox skein “Glee,” Matthew Morrison and Lea Michele (both Main Stem vets), also showcased song-and-dance skills.

The ceremony’s opening medley seemed calculated to appeal to the broadest aud possible by playing up a series of well-known songs currently featured in Broadway shows.

But this year at least, the celebs and familiar tunes didn’t pump viewership — even if there’s no denying that big names lead to big box office on the boards. This season more than any other in recent memory has been dominated by star-driven hits including Washington topliner “Fences” and the Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig-starrer “A Steady Rain.” “Promises,” Hayes’ show, has so far proven one of the season’s top weekly grossers.

Within New York, the Tonys have had better luck expanding its geographic reach beyond Radio City Music Hall. A Times Square simulcast, initiated last year, mostly filled the 900 seats set up in the plaza (as well as the steps of the TDF booth). Viewers were attracted in part by on-site hosts, including Constantine Maroulis and by a couple of shoutouts to the Times Square crowd during the Radio City ceremony.

Organizers estimated that, with turnover, about 2,000 visitors took seats in plaza to watch some portion of the ceremony.