For the first time in four years, the Primetime Emmy Awards are moving back to Monday night. The 70th annual ceremony will take place on Sept.17 live from Los Angeles, with “Saturday Night Live’s” Michael Che and Colin Jost set to host — and hopes for record ratings are on network execs’ minds.
The Monday night move is to avoid conflict with “Sunday Night Football,” which broadcaster NBC also boasts on its schedule this fall. The last time the network aired the awards show on a Monday it saw 15.6 million average total viewers, which marked the second-highest-rated broadcast in the past five years. In the Sunday- night broadcasts since that 66th annual ceremony in 2014, the Emmys only pulled in 11.9 million live viewers in 2015 (broadcast on Fox), 11.3 million live viewers in 2016 (broadcast on ABC) and 11.4 million live viewers just last year in 2017 (broadcast on CBS).
It isn’t just the Emmys that have seen a decline in viewership. Awards shows have suffered overall: The Academy Awards ratings have been declining since 2014 as well, with the 2018 ceremony drawing 26.5 million viewers (down from almost 33 million the previous year). The 2018 Grammys brought in 19.8 million viewers, down from 26 million the previous year.
Some industry insiders also expressed concern about the fallout of hosting such a big event during the work week, though.
“Mondays are rough because it’s a normal work day for everyone else,” said one publicist. “So while you’re trying to focus on your clients that you’re walking down the red carpet, you’re getting dozens of emails from your clients who are not at the Emmys but want you to make sure you’re still working on their accounts.”
Another noted that the traffic in Los Angeles always makes for an extra headache getting downtown. “The road closures and detours are never fun, but they cause much less congestion on weekends,” she said. “With the Emmys on Monday this year, it feels like rush hour downtown will be an all-day event.”
Historically, the first time the Emmys took place on a Monday was the third annual ceremony in 1951, back when the show was still a part of the winter awards season. It returned to Monday for three more ceremonies (the seventh in 1955, the 12th in 1960 and the 16th in 1964) before the ceremony was shifted to the fall season in 1965 for the 17th annual ceremony.
The 18th annual ceremony, in 1966, marked the start of the big four broadcasters’ rotation of the telecast, after NBC had aired them for the previous decade. The Emmys made an appearance on Monday nights at the 27th ceremony in 1975 and the 28th in 1976, but not again until the 66th in 2014. This was because NBC acquiring “Sunday Night Football” in 2006 caused the network to think twice about upsetting its sports lineup when its turn was up at the Emmy bat.
While NBC representatives say they do not plan to do anything different at this year’s show just because it’s back on a Monday, given that the Emmys will be their second consecutive night of event programming following football, they’re hopeful viewers will want to tune in.
“The last time we had the Emmys on a Monday night, we saw record ratings,” one executive said. “We obviously are hoping for that again and are confident that we can see high numbers.”