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'Billy Elliot'-powered Tonys dance to best ratings since '06

June 8, 2009 | 11:37 am

In a time of lowered ratings nearly everywhere else, Sunday's 63rd Annual Tony Awards — capped by 10 wins for the Elton John musical "Billy Elliot" — actually delivered improved numbers.

An average of 7.4 million total viewers tuned in to the three-hour Tony telecast, up 17% compared with last year and the best figure since 2006, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research.

As usual, the Tony audience skewed older, with a lackluster 1.3 rating/4 share among the advertiser-friendly demographic of adults ages 18 to 49. The program tends to perform much better among viewers 50 and older.

The Broadway award telecast, which also honored the musicals "Hair" and "Next to Normal" as well as the play "God of Carnage," played second fiddle in the ratings to Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Orlando Magic (which the Lakers won to lead the series, 2-0). Early returns indicated an average audience of 11.2 million for the game, although that figure is not adjusted for time zone differences.

— Scott Collins

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