TV Ratings: Emmys Log All-Time Low 11.3M Viewers as CBS' JonBenet Ramsey Special Pops

CBS' true-crime event series bows big against ABC's TV awards.
Lester Cohen/WireImage
Emmys host Jimmy Kimmel

Early ratings are in for the 2016 Emmys, and the verdict could be better. 

Per Nielsen Media, the primetime block of ABC's telecast averaged an all-time low 11.3 million viewers and an 8.4 overnight rating among households. That's down 5 percent from the low set in 2015.

Improvement was desperately needed. The TV Academy and ABC were no doubt hoping there was nowhere to go but up after the 2015 telecast bottomed out as the all-time lowest-rated and least-watched. The 2015 show's initial 8.7 overnight rating ultimately translated to 11.9 million viewers, below the previous all-time low set all the way back in 1990. 

The telecast, critically well received, was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel — and while TV enthusiasts may be celebrating some of the show's underdog victories, they were likely more of an obstacle for the Emmy audience. (The first award of the night went to Baskets actor Louie Anderson, whose FX show barely pulls 1 million viewers.)

Fox's showing last year marked a much steeper drop from 2014. Those Emmys, which annoyed much of Hollywood when NBC chose to hold the ceremony in late August and on a Monday, ended up holding reasonably well despite the shift. The show averaged 15.6 million viewers. 

NBC's Sunday Night Football has posed a considerable threat to Emmy viewership in recent years, and 2016 showed just how great a toll it is capable of taking on the marquee TV awards. It was formidable competition for Kimmel, tasked with emceeing the festivities that honored a mix of familiar faces and newcomers. This year's direct NFL competition was a tight game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. The game's 13.7 overnight rating is down from last year.

CBS still holds the high bar for the past decade. Its 2013 Emmy telecast swelled to 17.6 million viewers with host Neil Patrick Harris.

Among Emmy counterprogramming, the NFL was the biggest. Sunday Night Football, down from the same game in 2015, was the primetime winner — but CBS' overrun topped them all. For that reason, the surprise winner of the night might in fact be the network's two-part opening for The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey. Fast Affiliate ratings have the true-crime event series bowing to 10.3 million viewers and a 2.1 rating in the key demo. It held remarkably steady from the first hour to the second, barely losing any audience.

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