A Scorned ABC Takes a Bite Out of Emmys

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Last night, the Emmy Awards honored TV's finest, but was anybody watching?
Conan O'Brien hosted this year's Emmys, and poked fun at TV's poor ratings.
Conan O'Brien hosted this year's Emmys, and poked fun at TV's poor ratings. Credit: AP

The show, which aired on NBC last night, attracted an average 16.1 million viewers. The numbers are down from last year's 18.6 million, when it ran on CBS. Then, the Emmy's captured a 6.1 rating and a 15 share, vs. this years 5.2 rating and a 14 share in the 18- to 49-year-old demographic.

Though ratings for award shows such as the Emmys have been on a steady decline, this year's slip was further exacerbated by the show's bump to late August from its typical post-Labor Day airing. The show couldn't run in its typical September slot because NBC is now committed to NFL games on Sunday nights in the regular season.

Rubbing salt in the ratings wound was ABC's decision to air the Hollywood blockbuster "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl" from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. against the Emmys' 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. time period. The network's counter-scheduling move was viewed by some as retribution for its hit shows "Lost" and "Desperate Housewives" being noticeably absent from this year's top award nominees -- last year the island drama won for best series and the latter was nominated for best comedy.

"Pirates" did not manage to outright steal the show from the Emmys, though it did cut itself a sizable chunk of the pie. An average 10.2 million viewers tuned in to see Johnny Depp do his best Keith Richards impersonation, taking a 3.8 rating and an 11 share in the key advertiser demographic. While the counter-scheduling tactic did knock ratings, NBC's performance still bested ABC's poor Emmy showing in 2004, when 13.8 million viewers (for a 4.6 rating, 11 share) in the 18-49 year old demographic tuned in.

This year's Emmys generated further drama when it changed its nominating procedure in an attempt to give typically overlooked shows a shot at winning (and leading to ABC feeling snubbed). Hence the first nominations, but no wins, for the guys from "Rescue Me," "Two and a Half Men" and "The King of Queens" -- Denis Leary, Charlie Sheen and Kevin James, respectively.

In the winner's circle was former brat packer turned TV favorite Kiefer Sutherland, who received his first Emmy for the Fox serial drama "24" after five previous nominations for his role as Jack Bauer. The win was one of three for the show, including best drama series and best director. Julia Louis-Dreyfus' also won for best actress in a comedy series "New Adventures of Old Christine," proving there is life after "Seinfeld."

NBC put something of a digital spin on its broadcast this year. Host Conan O'Brien poked fun at poor ratings and how TiVo was killing TV, and the eagle-eyed might have noticed the heavy product placement for Apple. When nominations were announced, instead of showing the clips on a big screen, the cameras panned to audience members watching the clips on their video iPods. Better than showing people e-mailing on their Blackberrys, we suppose.
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