Early ratings are in for the 2016 Emmys, and the verdict could be better.
Per Nielsen Media, the primetime block of ABC's telecast averaged a 8.4 overnight rating among households. That number is reasonably steady, if technically down 4 percent, from last year's lows.
Improvement was desperately needed. The TV Academy and ABC were no doubt hoping there was nowhere to go but up after the 2015 telecast bottomed out as the all-time lowest rated and least-watched. The initial 8.7 overnight rating ultimately translated to 11.9 million viewers, below the previous all-time low set all the way back in 1990.
Fast Affiliate ratings don't paint a prettier picture for the show. Though they will see adjustments once time zones are taken into account, the tentative 9.7 million viewers (and 2.2 rating among adults 18-49) are also tracking down from comparable 2015 numbers - by 7 percent among total viewers.
The telecast, critically well received, was hosted by Jimmy Kimmel - and while TV enthusiasts may be celebrating some of the show's underdog victories, they were likely more of an obstacle for the Emmy audience. (The first award of the night went to Baskets actor Louie Anderson, whose show barely pulls 1 million viewers.)
2015 marked a much steeper drop. Those Emmys, which annoyed much of Hollywood when NBC chose to hold the ceremony in late August and on a Monday, ended up holding reasonably well despite the shift. It averaged 15.6 million viewers.
Sunday Night Football has posed a considerable threat to Emmy viewership in recent years, and 2016 showed just how great a toll it's capable of taking on the marquee TV awards. It was formidable competition for Kimmel, tasked with emceeing this year's festivities that honored a mix of familiar faces and newcomers. This year's direct NFL competition was a tight game between the Green Bay Packers and the Minnesota Vikings. The game's 13.7 overnight rating is down from last year.
CBS still holds the high bar for the last decade. Its 2013 Emmy telecast swelled to 17.6 million viewers with host Neil Patrick Harris.
Among Emmy counter-programming, the NFL was the biggest. Sunday Night Football, down from the same game in 2015, was the primetime winner - but CBS overrun topped them all. For that reason, the surprise winner of the night might in fact be the network's two-part opening for The Case Of: JonBenet Ramsey. Fast Affiliate ratings have CBS' true-crime event series bowed to 10.7 million viewers and a 2.2 rating in the key demo. Those numbers are very likely inflated, on account of the NFL, but should remain quite strong with adjustments.
More updates will come on the 2016 Emmy telecast throughout Monday morning and afternoon.