Over 19.3 million Americans tuned in to this year’s Tony awards, a year that’s seen a plethora of awards-show slumps
TV ratings for the Tony awards, the US equivalent of the Brits, have been a preoccupation this year as viewers have witnessed a renaissance of prestige drama – and a host of professional stage actors switching from American television to British radio dramas and film parts.
The 89th Tony awards, which were held this past Sunday at Radio City Music Hall in New York, fell to an all-time low, with more than 19.3 million viewers tuning in.
Estimates from comScore predict that the national TV audience for the 2019 Tony awards will likely come in under 20 million, though that number is based on 11.2 million “eyeballs” across all digital platforms, rather than on live television.
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Last year’s Tony awards snagged 22.3 million viewers and surpassed the all-time Emmy awards record set in September, which scooped 18.6 million viewers. The Tony awards have run concurrently with the Emmy awards on CBS since 1997.
The continuing ratings drop puts the Tony awards in second place among the night’s top awards shows, narrowly beaten by the Oscars, which had 22.9 million viewers in 2018.
The Academy Awards have been under pressure since their comeback year in 2009, though it remains the most watched non-sports program in American TV history with over 40 million viewers, compared to just 16.2 million for the Tony awards in 2018.
This year’s Oscars were the lowest watched in a decade.
The Tony awards were once extremely lucrative, commanding up to $2.4m a single broadcast, and had its heyday in the 1990s. Sales were affected by infighting over who was the rightful heir to Broadway’s golden boy, but since 1997 the Academy Award has proven more profitable for the industry.
But with some prominent actors choosing to take the career path previously reserved for Broadway actors, the question has once again been raised over whether the industry can maintain its standing.
Al Pacino once famously blasted the Tonys and the trend of American actors leaving Broadway for Hollywood, describing the awards as “garbage” and “cornball”. But the Oscar winner Ben Affleck was once on record saying “These things are great.”