Primetime Emmys Hits All-Time Ratings Low

by Paige Albiniak  |  09.19.2016

Sunday night’s Primetime Emmys, hosted by Jimmy Kimmel, was the best reviewed Emmys telecast in years, but it still had a hard time drawing viewers up against the likes of NBC’s NFL Sunday Night Football and CBS’ special on JonBenet Ramsey.

According to Nielsen Media Research, the 68th Annual Primetime Emmys sank to all-time viewership low with 11.3 million viewers and a 8.4 overnight household rating, down 5 percent from the previous all-time low set last year. Last year’s Emmys, which aired on Fox, attracted 11.9 million viewers and an 8.7 overnight household rating, which was the awards show’s lowest score since 1990.

In 2014, NBC aired the Emmys on a Monday in late August to avoid football, and while that move made the Emmys less potent as a marketing vehicle for fall TV, it meant that the show attracted more viewers, with 15.6 million people tuning in. Meanwhile, Sunday Night Football, which featured the Green Bay Packers taking on the Minnesota Vikings (and aired during commercials at Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theater), drew 20.5 million viewers and a 7.4 rating/23 share in the overnight ratings. CBS also attracted viewers with its special, The Case of JonBenet Ramsey, winning nearly 10.3 million viewers and a 2.1/7 in households.

While Emmy’s viewership was down, critical reception for the telecast was high, with critics generally seeming to like Kimmel as host as well as who the TV Academy selected as winners.

Diversity was well-represented, with Courtney B. Vance winning best lead actor in a limited series for the People v. O.J. Simpson, Sterling K. Brown winning best supporting actor in the same limited series, Regina King winning best supporting actress in a limited series for ABC’s American Crime, and Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang winning for best writing in a comedy for Netflix’s Master of None. And two female directors—Transparent‘s Jill Soloway and The Night Manager‘s Susanne Bier—won for directing a comedy and a limited series, respectively

And while several of the wins were expected — HBO’s Game of Thrones and Veep both repeated as best drama and comedy, respectively, while FX’s The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story simply dominated its category — there were several surprises as well.

RELATED: HBO Repeats for Best Comedy, Drama at 2016 Primetime Emmys

No one seemed more surprised than Mr. Robot star Rami Malek when he was named best lead actor in a drama, although he pulled it together quickly to give an articulate acceptance speech.

Another young and talented actress — Tatiana Maslany, who plays all the clones in BBC America’s Orphan Black — was named best lead actress in a drama after first being nominated for that role last year, while Louie Anderson was named best supporting actor in a comedy for FX’s little-watched but critically-acclaimed Baskets.

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