CBS’s Sunday telecast of the 72nd annual Tony Awards scored an audience of 6.3 million viewers, a 4.5% rise over last year, according to Nielsen data.
The audience figure is a slight rebound from the 2017 ceremony, which was watched by 6.05 million viewers — the Tonys’ smallest TV audience since 2012. In 2016, when the wildly popular musical “Hamilton” swept the awards, the program scored 8.7 million viewers.
This year’s live ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York may have gotten a boost from the inclusion of rock legend Bruce Springsteen, who received a special award for his production of “Springsteen on Broadway.” Overall, the 2017-18 Broadway season is the highest-grossing in history, according to the Broadway League.
The Tony Awards caused a social media stir as Robert De Niro used his onstage introduction of Springsteen to utter an expletive directed at President Trump. The actor was bleeped during the CBS telecast, but his words were widely disseminated on Twitter by people at Radio City Music Hall, where he received a standing ovation.
The audience was also brought to its feet by a performance of “Seasons of Love” from the musical “Rent,” sung by drama students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School of Parkland, Fla. A shooting rampage in February took the lives of 17 students and faculty members at the school.
Josh Groban and Sara Bareilles hosted the Tony Awards. “The Band’s Visit” won the award for best musical. “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” was honored for best play.
The Tony Awards telecast is typically the least watched of the annual entertainment industry trophy shows. But last year, CBS signed a long-term deal with the presenters — the American Theatre Wing and the Broadway League — to keep the broadcast rights to the telecast through 2026, as it brings prestige to the network even as a loss leader. CBS has broadcast the Tony Awards since 1978.