The Emmys: Will the plug get yanked on its yearly turn on broadcast TV?

Neal Patrick Harris breathed new life into the Emmys on Sunday night -- but that's faint praise. Viewership of last night's broadcast on CBS (CBS) rose to 13.3 million among the target demographic of viewers 18 to 49. That's up from 12.3 million for the 2008 show, which, Broadcast & Cable notes, tied for the lowest rated Emmy broadcast of all time. Last night's ceremony earned its biggest audience in three years.

A gain is a gain, particularly in this increasingly fractured media universe, but the Emmys are in big trouble.The problems with the show are many. Mostly, the program has an elitist feel to it, as if it were designed by one group of Starbucks drinkers for another.


Many of last night's winners have previously won TV's highest award, and some, like NBC's 30 Rock (with Alec Baldwin, pictured) and AMC's Mad Men, attract relatively small audiences. 30 Rock garnered 22 nominations -- roughly 22 more than Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The voters of the Acadamy probably turn their noses up at the antics of the Kardashian sisters; their stepdad, Bruce Jenner; and their mom, Kris -- as most sane, literate people should.

What do the American people want, besides the Kardashians? Football. Lots of football. Ratings for NBC's Sunday Night Football were 65 percent higher than the Emmys. And no wonder: the New York Giants' 33-to-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys had everything the awards show lacked, including excitement and a new $1.2 billion football stadium. As many as 25 million viewers watched the game.

A few years ago, the Miss America pageant lost its decades-long foothold on broadcast TV. This year's Daytime Emmys, featuring an amusing salute to Sesame Street on its 40th anniversary, was shown on the CW network. Given the praise he received, Harris probably got an offer to host next year's show as the curtain fell on this year's telecast. But unless there's a big rebound in ratings, the Emmys may wind up on cable in the not-too-distant future.


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