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Grammy Awards telecast hits historic low with 8.8 million viewers for CBS

2021 Grammy Winners Dua Lipa, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Megan Thee Stallion.
(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The 63rd Grammy Awards scored 8.8 million viewers Sunday on CBS, the smallest audience on record for the annual telecast, continuing the ratings tailspin for TV trophy shows.

While the figure from Nielsen is 53% below the 18.7 million viewers who watched a year ago, the telecast fared better than NBC’s telecast of the 78th Golden Globes, which drew a record low 6.9 million viewers for NBC on Feb. 28, a 63% decline from 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the show from its usual date in late January or early February and safety protocols prevented the ceremony from being held in front of a large live audience. Such constraints have been a factor in the significant declines in audience television awards shows have seen over the last year, as both the Golden Globes and the Emmy Awards dropped to historic lows.

The previous low for a Grammy Awards telecast was 17 million viewers in 2006.

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Producers of the Grammy telecast made the best of the situation with a presentation that was largely praised by critics and fans on social media.

With host Trevor Noah at the helm, Sunday’s telecast proved less is more as the COVID-19 pandemic forced a shakeup — and breathed new life into the form.

The set resembled the long-running BBC 2 music show “Later...With Jools Holland,” where various acts appear on a single stage, creating a club-like atmosphere for the performers who played live.

Grammy-nominated artists were assembled in a socially-distanced banquet setting on a veranda outside the Los Angeles Convention Center. “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah served as emcee.

The program’s executive producer Ben Winston told The Times last week that he fully expected an audience decline of 30% to 60% from a year ago no matter many accolades the show received.

The night celebrating the last year in the music industry included honors for Beyoncé, who won four awards, including for best R&B performance for “Black Parade.” With 28 career wins, Beyoncé broke the record for most Grammys for a female recording artist.

Trevor Noah posing in a tuxedo next to a golden Grammy trophy
“The Daily Show” host and comedian Trevor Noah served as emcee of the 63rd Grammy Awards.
(Michael Schwartz / CBS)

Taylor Swift won album of the year for “Folklore,” while Billie Eilish earned record of the year for “Everything I Wanted.”

CBS offers the Grammy Awards to subscribers of its streaming service Paramount +. The network does not release the data, but said in a statement that streaming of the Grammy Awards was up 83% over last year.


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