Neil Patrick Harris (center) with the cast of "The Book of Mormon"… (Theo Wargo / Getty Images )
Tony voters went crazy for the Broadway musical version of "Once." But viewers weren't all that hot on the Tonys.
Sunday's 66th annual Tony Awards on CBS, again hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, drew an average of 6 million total viewers, down 13% compared with last year's show, according to early figures from Nielsen.
In fact, these were the least-watched Tonys since at least 1992. But the awards, which honor the best plays and musicals of the Broadway season, have never been world-beaters in ratings. The 2007 telecast drew just 6.2 million, and the Tonys have failed to crack 8 million viewers since 2002.
This year, a big part of the problem may have been the shows up for awards. "Once," a theatrical adaptation of the 2006 sleeper hit movie, won for best musical and took eight awards overall. But it's a spare show about two Dublin musicians who fall in love, not the sort of big-budget spectacle that sparks curiosity beyond theater-lovers.
Tony ratings have been higher when splashier, more crowd-pleasing shows have been honored, such as last year's"The Book of Mormon,""Memphis" in 2010 and "Jersey Boys" in 2006.
The Tonys are also the least-watched of the major award shows, reflecting Broadway's relatively limited popularity. This year's Oscars and Grammy telecasts each drew more than 39 million viewers.
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