Sunday night’s Tony Awards marked the lowest-rated broadcast ever for Broadway’s big night.
Facing stiff competition from Game 2 of the NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors, CBS’ Tonys broadcast scored a 0.9 in the key 18-49 demo, with just over six million viewers tuning in. According to Roger Friedman at Showbiz 411, the numbers are off 25% from last year’s broadcast and are the worst ever for the annual theater awards show.
Friedman traces the disappointing numbers to the show’s lack of star host firepower.
“Alan Cumming and Kristen Chenoweth were fun, but had no pull,” writes Friedman.
And that is certainly true; the broadcasts fared modestly better with former big-name Hollywood hosts Hugh Jackman and Neil Patrick Harris at the reins the last couple of years.
But some had predicted ratings trouble for the Tonys in advance of Sunday night’s broadcast. Variety‘s Gordon Cox noted that this year’s crop of nominated Broadway shows just did not have the national appeal of previous smash hits like The Book of Mormon or The Producers.
Cox also pointed to poor scheduling as a potential harbinger for ratings failure, as the award for best lead actress in a play was presented first: “Which could mean that, after Helen Mirren accepts her Tony (as everyone expects) early in the broadcast, a lot of TV viewers might see no reason not to switch over to Game of Thrones come 9 o’clock.”
Viewers were more likely to switch over to Game 2 of the NBA Finals, where LeBron James and the Cavaliers eked out a 95-93 win in a game that made history as the first time a Finals series went into overtime in its first two games. ABC’s broadcast of the game scored a 6.1 rating in the key demo with 15.6 million total viewers, helping the network to a first-place finish in overall viewers for the night.
Despite the low ratings, this year’s Tony Awards was likely considered a success by both CBS and theater aficionados.
While just over 6 million viewed the awards show (not a large number for a nationally-televised awards program), the show’s viewers tend to skew older and more affluent, the all-important demographic for the network’s advertisers.
Meanwhile, Broadway insiders are reportedly saying this is the most progressive crop of theater shows in some time; the most-awarded show of the night, Best Musical winner Fun Home, is reportedly the first Broadway musical to feature a “butch lesbian” protagonist and the first show to feature a Best Score-winning all-female composer-lyricist songwriting team.
Other big winners at the Tonys included The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which picked up five awards including best play, and An American in Paris, which snagged four tophies.
Check out the full list of Tony winners here.