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Grammy show ratings rise 10%, to 19 million viewers

February 9, 2009 | 12:38 pm

Timberlake_ti_kes6fonc_300 CBS' 3 1/2-hour 51st Grammy Awards telecast dominated the ratings Sunday night, rounding up 19 million viewers, according to early figures from Nielsen Media Research.

That was a healthy 10% rise compared with last year's show, when network TV viewing was mostly in the doldrums due to the effects of a three-month writers guild strike.

Some help may have come from the Grammys' lead-in, "60 Minutes" (16.8 million), which featured a heavily promoted interview with Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III, the heroic pilot of US Air Flight 1549, which was ditched in the Hudson River last month (last year, "60 Minutes" gave the Grammys a lead-in of just 13.1 million).

In explaining the year-to-year rise, CBS officials also pointed to a Grammy program this year that featured a diverse lineup of pop musicians, ranging from veterans such as Neil Diamond and Stevie Wonder to young performers such as Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake (although last year's lineup featured a similar generational mix, including Alicia Keys and Tina Turner). There was also a network promotional campaign that encompassed everything from a Katie Couric prime-time special earlier in the week to a marketing push on social-media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"It was a broadcast with something for every generation and, importantly, it was supported by a marketing campaign for every platform," Jack Sussman, a CBS executive vice president in charge of special programming, said in a statement.

Such a view underscores the point, though, that CBS may have to work a little harder for Grammy ratings than it did in the past (the awards have aired on the network since 1973). Strong as they were, the Sunday numbers didn't quite match the 20 million viewers who showed up for the 2007 Grammy telecast. In fact, this was only the sixth most-watched of the last 10 Grammys.

More troubling, the Grammys, like virtually all award shows, seem to continue losing a grip on young people. Among the ad-friendly demographic of adults ages 18 to 49, the Grammys scored a 7.4 rating/14 share. That rating represented a 14% hike compared with last year, but it was still the third-lowest performance in that category since at least 1992. And in terms of share of that young audience, Sunday's Grammys hit what looks to be an all-time low — another reflection that the TV audience keeps  splintering.

— Scott Collins   

(Photo: Justin Timberlake and T.I. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

 

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