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The Grammys

Hitting a high note

TV ratings climb 10% from last year -- which shows you what kind of

February 10, 2009|Scott Collins

CBS' 3 1/2 -hour 51st Grammy Awards telecast dominated the ratings Sunday night, rounding up 19 million viewers, according to early figures from Nielsen Media Research.

That was a healthy 10% rise compared with last year's show, when network TV viewing was mostly in the doldrums due to effects from the three-month writers strike.

Some help may have come from the Grammy's lead-in, "60 Minutes" (16.8 million), which featured a heavily promoted interview with Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, the heroic pilot of US Air Flight 1549 that ditched in the Hudson River last month. (Last year, "60 Minutes" gave the Grammys a lead-in of just 13.1 million.)

In explaining the rise, CBS officials also pointed to a Grammy program this year that featured a diverse lineup of pop musicians, including veterans such as Neil Diamond and Stevie Wonder and young performers such as Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake (although last year's lineup featured a similar generational mix, including Alicia Keys and Tina Turner). There was also a network promotional campaign that featured a Katie Couric prime-time special earlier in the week and a marketing push on social-media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

"It was a broadcast with something for every generation and, importantly, it was supported by a marketing campaign for every platform," Jack Sussman, a CBS executive vice president in charge of special programming, said in a statement.

Such a view underscores the point, though, that CBS may have to work a little harder for Grammy ratings than it did in the past (the awards have aired on the network since 1973). Strong as they were, the Sunday numbers didn't quite match the 20 million viewers who showed up for the 2007 Grammy telecast. In fact, this was only the sixth most-watched of the last 10 Grammys.

More troubling, the Grammys, like virtually all awards shows, seem to continue losing their grip on young people. Among the ad-friendly demographic of adults ages 18 to 49, the Grammys scored a 7.4 rating/14 share. That rating represented a 14% hike compared with last year, but it was still the third-lowest performance in that category since at least 1992. And in terms of share of that young audience, Sunday's Grammys hit what looks to be an all-time low -- another reflection that the TV audience keeps splintering.

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scott.collins@latimes.com

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