Emmy ratings improve, even against a huge football game

neilpatrickharris_emmys09_02_290.jpgThe good news, ratings-wise, coming out of Sunday's Emmys is that the show built its audience compared to last year, even against stiff competition in the form of a highly anticipated NFL game.

The bad news is that the awards still haven't fully rebounded from the lows they've experienced in the past couple of years.

Final numbers won't be available until Tuesday, but based on the data that are available now the Emmys drew about a million more viewers this year than in 2008 -- 13.32 million vs. 12.34 million. The awards also showed improvement across the demographic spectrum, including adults 18-49 (4.2 rating, up from 3.8 last year) and adults 18-34 (3.4 vs. 3.2).

Sunday's broadcast, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris and featuring a lot of repeat winners, reversed two years of ratings declines. The 12.34 million people who tuned in last year were the fewest since 1990; the 2007 awards didn't do much better, drawing 12.95 million people. In the five years before that, the awards averaged better than 17 million viewers.

Whether Sunday's ratings bump is attributable to Harris -- who earned mostly strong reviews as host -- or the fact that CBS had heavily watched afternoon NFL games until about 7:40 p.m. ET, followed by an abbreviated "60 Minutes," is hard to parse out. It's probably some combination of the two, with a little heavier emphasis on the big lead-in (as evidenced by the fact that the Emmy audience dropped in each hour).

NBC, meanwhile, probably drained some of the Emmy audience with a huge audience for its "Sunday Night Football" game between the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys at Dallas' new stadium. The game averaged a 16.5 rating/27 share in the metered markets, the best overnight rating ever for the network's Sunday-night franchise. That should translate to well over 20 million viewers when final numbers are released Tuesday (at which time we'll update this post).

UPDATE: The "Sunday Night Football" game pulled in 24.8 million viewers, Nielsen says. That's a record for NBC's franchise and the most-watched regular-season prime-time NFL game in 12 years. The Emmys rose a little bit in the final numbers, clocking in at 13.47 million viewers and holding steady at a 4.2 adults 18-49 rating.

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