The awards gala, which featured a performance from a hologram of the late Michael Jackson, hit a 13-year viewership high of 10.5 million people, according to early numbers from Nielsen. That made it the most-watched telecast of the night, improving on last year's airing that averaged 9.5 million viewers.
Highlights included the Jackson hologram's presentation of the song "Slave to the Rhythm" from his posthumously released album "Xscape," plus a performance by Jennifer Lopez. "Not A Bad Thing" singer Justin Timberlake took home top album honors.
Among key 18- to 49-year-olds, the three-hour telecast scored a rating of 3.5, which is in line with last year. A ratings point in the 18-to-49 demographic equals roughly 1.3 million viewers.
Adding in results from the season finale of "America's Funniest Home Videos," (6.6 million viewers, 1.6 in the 18-to-49 demographic), ABC beat its rival networks in prime time, averaging a 3.0 in 18-49 and a 9.5 million viewers overall.
Second place went to CBS, featuring season finales from "Amazing Race," "The Good Wife" and "The Mentalist," which were all down from their season closers about a year ago. "Amazing Race" and "The Good Wife" were flat week-to-week at a 1.7 and a 1.2, respectively, though "The Mentalist's" 1.5 was 25% better than a week ago.
For the night, CBS averaged 9.2 million viewers total and a 1.4 in the key demographic.
Fox's animation-dominated lineup and the science documentary program "Cosmos" were little changed this week.
NBC had weak results across the board, starting with a Coldplay music special at 7 p.m. that mustered 1.7 million viewers and a 0.4 in the key demo, followed by similar numbers for the reality show "American Dream Builders." A "Saturday Night Live" special managed a 0.8 among young adults and 2.5 million viewers.