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Grammys Gets Ratings Boost in Wake of Whitney Houston Death

CBS Broadcast Edges Out Last Year's Oscar Audience on ABC

By Published on .

Host LL Cool J said a prayer for Whitney Houston at the beginning of Sunday's Grammy Awards.
Host LL Cool J said a prayer for Whitney Houston at the beginning of Sunday's Grammy Awards.

CBS's broadcast of the Grammy Awards attracted more than 39 million viewers, according to early figures from Nielsen provided by the network, making the show second in Grammy viewership only to the 1984 broadcast featuring Michael Jackson. Last night's broadcast also trumped the audience that watched last year's Oscars telecast on ABC, which attracted an average of 37.9 million people, according to Nielsen.

The broadcast most likely enjoyed a ratings boost in large part because of the death of Whitney Houston, who reportedly died in her hotel room as she prepared to take part in preshow festivities.

The surge year-over-year is notable. In 2011, CBS's Grammys broadcast attracted about 26.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen data. After seeing its audience fall to 17.2 million in 2008 from about 20.1 million in 2007, the show has been on an upswing in recent years.

Beating last year's Oscars is also noteworthy. The Oscars are usually considered the No. 2 TV event of the year, following the Super Bowl. This year's Oscars are coming up on Feb. 26.

In recent years, the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences, which backs the glittery awards broadcast, has winnowed the number of overall categories and tried to elicit more eye-popping performances. Last night's opening segment featured Bruce Springsteen performing a new single and Bruno Mars doing a routine that echoed James Brown and Little Richard.

The 1984 Grammys broadcast attracted nearly 51.7 million viewers, according to Nielsen data.

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