Grim reality for Emmy ratings

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And the award for lowest-rated Emmys ever goes to … ABC's Sunday night telecast.

The 60th Primetime Emmy Awards ceremony received a 3.8 rating/9 share in the preliminary adults 18-49 demo, the lowest in Nielsen People Meter history. That's 12% below last year's previous Emmy record low, a ceremony hosted by Ryan Seacrest on Fox.

In the battle for the fewest total viewers in history, the numbers were too close to call. In the preliminary figures, the Emmys were the least-watched ceremony ever (12.2 million), coming just under Fox's historic-low 1990 ceremony (12.3 million) and less than 2007's event (13 million). But that standing could easily change when the nationals are released today.

ABC's red carpet lead-in, "Jimmy Kimmel's Big Night of Stars" (4.6 million, 1.2/4), placed fourth in its 7 p.m. time slot, off 12% from last year's preshow.

Like last year, the awards faced heavy competition from "Sunday Night Football" (19.2 million, 8.1/19) on NBC, which easily won the night with a Cowboys-Packers game. As an event that aired live on both coasts, NBC's numbers are expected to improve in the nationals.

Industry insiders expected the awards to sink to a grim new watermark given that AMC's low-rated "Mad Men" was the most-nominated drama and NBC's modestly rated "30 Rock" was the most-honored comedy. Some of the other shows that took home major awards — such as FX's "Damages" and HBO's "John Adams" — drew niche audiences.

The performance of the Emmy Awards makes for an unpropitious start to premiere week, when broadcasters roll out the bulk of their new shows. (partialdiff)
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