Grammys telecast ratings on CBS up slightly from 2018

Grammy Awards host Alicia Keys appears with a surprise guest, former First Lady Michelle Obama, at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.
(Kevin Winter )

A more diverse lineup of performers and award winners helped stabilize the audience level for the Grammy Awards, delivering a slight ratings bump for CBS.

Sunday night’s telecast of the annual music industry prizes presented by the Recording Academy bucked the trend of declining audiences for TV awards shows, growing 0.5% over last year to 19.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.

The live broadcast of the 61st Grammy Awards from Staples Center in Los Angeles, hosted by Alicia Keys, was widely praised by critics for greater recognition of women performers after a perceived snub at last year’s show. Hip-hop artists — who have struggled to get Grammy accolades equal to their music sales and cultural influence — were also better represented than in previous years.

The combination may have been the formula to stave off another drop for the annual event that saw its audience level drop by 24% in 2018, a nine-year low.


Country singer Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour” received the Grammy for album of the year. Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” earned record of the year and song of the year — the latter award a first for a hip-hop artist.

Awards telecasts such as the Grammys have had a tougher time accruing massive audiences in recent years as the entertainment landscape becomes more fragmented. More younger viewers also choose to watch clips of the winners and their favorite performers online than sit through a three-plus-hour live show.

In a troubling sign, the program did see a 5.6% decline among viewers ages 18 to 49, a new all-time low in the audience category most sought by advertisers.

CBS also streams the Grammy Awards on its subscriber-based CBS All Access Service. The network did not yet have data on how many viewers watched the program online, but said in a statement that it expects “double-digit growth” over last year.


Even before last year’s audience declines, ratings for the Grammy Awards historically fluctuated based on the popularity of the artists being honored. The telecast hit 39.9 million viewers in 2012, when Adele swept the awards and artists paid tribute to singer Whitney Houston, who died the day before the ceremony.

Sunday’s show did have a few broad-appeal acts familiar to older viewers. Country legend Dolly Parton, the 2019 MusiCares Person of the Year, led an all-star tribute to her career. Jennifer Lopez delivered a Vegas-style medley of Motown hits to celebrate the soul label’s 60th anniversary. And Motown diva Diana Ross marked her 75th birthday by leading the audience in her first solo hit, “Reach Out and Touch.”

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio