After almost a two-year hiatus, the Tony Awards came back, but the siren song of Broadway’s biggest and best wasn’t enough to draw a large TV audience.
The 9-11 p.m. portion of the Tony Awards that aired on CBS tanked, drawing only 2.62 million viewers per Nielsen’s time-adjusted and corrected Live+Same Day fast overnights and scoring just an 0.4 rating in the key 18-49 demographic. For comparison, the 2019 awards ceremony hosted by “Late Late Show’s” James Corden scored a 0.8 rating in the key demo and fell below 6 million total viewers with just under 5.5 million tuning in — and that was an all-time, five-year low.
The Tony Awards are typically held in early June at the end of the Broadway season. The presentation of honors for the 2019-2020 Broadway season were delayed more than a year because of pandemic concerns and the historic shuttering of Broadway.
The most unusual Tony Awards had an unusual TV outing, with CBS opting to split the full, four-hour show between the network and streamer Paramount Plus, which could perhaps be why primetime numbers were so sparse this year. Jack Sussman, CBS Entertainment exec VP of specials, music, live events and alternative programming, told Variety before tha show that the unconventional two-hour divvy-up was done to “bring the full power of the new ViacomCBS to the Tony Awards.”
An awards-heavy live presentation hosted by Audra McDonald occurred during the first two hours followed by a live concert event for the second two hours hosted by “Hamilton” alum and “Central Park” star Leslie Odom Jr. (along with the three key awards: best play, best revival and best musical). The broadcast special, meant to celebrate Broadway and the Broadway songbook, featured performances from “Jagged Little Pill,” “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” and “Tina: The Tina Turner Musical.”