Grammy Awards records the lowest TV ratings in its history
Last night’s Grammy Awards will go down in history as the least-watched presentation in the event's 63-year existence, drawing an average of just 8.8 million viewers across linear TV and streaming combined, Nielsen’s final numbers show.
Including streaming via CBS.com, the CBS app and Paramount+, this year's Grammys did not even net half the total viewers of last year’s ceremony, which drew nearly 19 million. The 2021 numbers give the Grammys as 2.1 demo rating among adults aged 18-49.
No Grammys since its TV viewership numbers first began to be measured in the 1970s has recorded an audience of less than 10 million.
Hosted by comedian Trevor Noah at the Los Angeles Convention Center, this year’s Grammys did not feature a live audience—with the exception of a limited number of in-person performers, presenters and nominees—marking the annual music award show’s first pandemic-era ceremony.
Last year, the 62nd Grammy Awards were held in January, just six weeks before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. This year’s show was also originally slated for January, though it was ultimately postponed until last night due to the extreme coronavirus situation in L.A. at the time.
The Grammys’ ratings have been on something of a roller coaster over the past decade or so, swinging from relatively robust highs to multiyear lows.
In 2020, the Recording Academy’s subdued show, which was held on the same day NBA star Kobe Bryant and eight others died in a helicopter crash, drew an average of 18.7 million viewers on CBS and a 5.9 demo rating. That event was, at the time, the fourth least-watched Grammys in its 60-plus-year history, only edging out the snoozefests of 1995, 2006 and 2008.
The 2020 audience figure was down 6% from the previous year, when the Alicia Keys-hosted ceremony attracted a healthy 19.9 million in the U.S.; that in itself was a slight upswing from 2018’s event that saw 19.8 million viewers—a nine-year low at the time. The ceremonies in the years leading up to the 2018 Grammys all netted audiences north of 20 million.
While the Grammy Awards’ yearly ratings have been anything but predictable recently, the year-over-year slump recorded during last night’s broadcast was not an outlier among such TV events, but rather part of an ongoing trend that could spell doom for advertisers who’ve historically relied on the annual cash-cows.
Two weeks ago, the 2021 Golden Globes became the first major sign that annual entertainment specials may be on the way out with American audiences.
Per Nielsen, an average of just 6.9 million viewers tuned into the Amy Poehler and Tiny Fey-hosted award show, making the Globes less golden than they’ve ever been; that final figure was just over one-third of 2020’s total audience, 18.3 million, which had already been dogged as an eight-year low for the Hollywood ceremony.
And it’s not just award shows that have been plagued by low ratings since the onset of the pandemic. Last month’s National Football League championship matchup between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Kansas City Chiefs was the least-watched Super Bowl since 2007, with the CBS broadcast garnering an average of 96.4 million viewers. In the past decade, the event had come to reliably attract more than 100 million pairs of eyeballs each year, with only 2019 and 2021’s games falling below that three-digit threshold.