The CBS telecast of the 69th Emmy Awards was watched by about 11.4 million viewers on Sunday, roughly equaling last year’s audience level.
The good news for CBS is the number did not decline from 2016, when the broadcast aired on ABC and hit an all-time low.
Ratings for the Emmys have been on a downward slide since the 2013 telecast hosted by Neil Patrick Harris on CBS, which was watched by 17.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.
Audience levels for all live awards shows have slipped in recent years, as a growing number of younger viewers prefer to watch clips of them online or live online streams of the broadcasts. The Emmy Awards were available to subscribers of CBS All Access, the streaming service that carries the network’s programming. No data was available on how many people watched the CBS stream.
But the sluggish ratings for the Emmys is also likely to raise the question as to whether the ceremony is putting off some viewers because it has become too political. The show was packed with barbs against President Trump by host Stephen Colbert and Emmy winner Alec Baldwin. There were also earnest speeches stating opposition to his administration.
The Emmy Awards is also suffering from the same challenge facing the Oscars, which rarely recognizes big box office hits. Television’s highest honor now celebrates programs on streaming services that are not as widely known as the biggest hits on cable and broadcast network TV.
For example, NBC’s “This Is Us,” the breakout hit of last season, only earned one award — Sterling K. Brown for best actor in a drama series. Broadcast networks ABC, CBS and PBS had no winners and scant representation among the nominees recognized on the broadcast.
“The Handmaid’s Tale,” available only on the streaming service Hulu, was the winner of the best drama award. It was the first time a series from a streaming service was honored in the top category.
HBO won the most honors of the night with 10, thanks to its movie star-studded limited series “Big Little Lies.”
Streaming services were aware of the major exposure they get on the Emmy Awards. Both Netflix and Hulu advertised in the program.
The Emmy Awards telecast had its highest rating in West Palm Beach, Fla., where it averaged a 12.3 rating. It scored a 12.2 rating in New York and a 9.0 rating in Los Angeles. A rating point represents a percentage of the TV households tuned in.