Everyone knows Sunday's 65th
Amid tough competition — "Breaking Bad"!
All good, yes? Well maybe not, actually — the Emmy numbers provide a great example of how 70-character headlines and social media can distort the more complicated reality of a situation.
Make no mistake,
But CBS achieved its best-in-eight-years headline due not to the virtues of the Emmys telecast itself but rather to football.
The ceremony was immediately preceded by a high-rated
Final ratings aren't yet available, but it's already clear that the game had a big influence on the final Emmy average. When it ended, the Jets-Bills contest had about 19 million viewers glued to their sofas. And many of them didn't immediately grab the remote when football signed off and a thin blond actor-turned-MC suddenly materialized on their screens.
That means that for its first half-hour or so, the Emmys enjoyed an artificially boosted rating, with probably something on the order of 2 million or 3 million viewers sticking around not because they're just insane Jeff Daniels fans but because they were busy babbling about the Jets game.
Why does that matter? Because Emmy ratings are averages, and very high (or very low) numbers in a data set always distort averages.
And that is exactly how things played out Sunday night. After the first half-hour, the Emmy audience declined markedly in every single half-hour afterward, shrinking to about 11.7 million viewers by the last half-hour (according to early numbers).
Without that NFL lead-in, the Emmys probably would have averaged about 14 million — still a bit better than last year (when ABC, it should be noted, had no football lead-in to help out) but not the sort of thing that would lead people to draw some larger conclusion about the symbolic meaning of the numbers.
Given short attention spans, most readers will probably seize on the "best since 2005" takeaway. But a funny thing about 2005, when the Emmys did 18.6 million: That year CBS had a football lead-in too.