Ratings for the Grammy Awards on Sunday improved a little bit vs. their performance last year. Just over 26 million people tuned in, a three-year high, and the show’s adults 18-49 rating (7.8) was up slightly from the 7.7 for the 2016 show.
The show’s 18-49 rating the past couple years is the lowest it’s been for about a decade, true. But the Grammys’ ability to draw a big audience has been pretty consistent in the 2010s — in fact, as good or better than in either of the prior two decades. Live events are among the strengths of broadcast networks in the Peak TV era, and the Grammy ratings bear that out.
Here’s how the Grammys have performed since 2011:
|Year||Viewers (millions)||18-49 rating|
Source: The Nielsen Company.
Networks began airing live Grammy Awards broadcasts in 1971; reliable ratings and audience figures for them go back to the 1980s — which were Peak Grammy. The awards averaged a 24.9 household rating and 31.57 million viewers from 1981-90. The 1984 ceremony — and Michael Jackson’s eight-award night for “Thriller” — set an all-time record in both viewers (51.67 million) and household rating (30.8).
The show’s ratings went on a slide in the 1990s (24.12 million viewers, 16.2 household rating on average) and especially the 2000s (22.47 million, 12.9 households). From 2001-10 the Grammys failed to break 20 million viewers four times, hitting an all-time low of 17.01 million in 2006.
The current decade has seen an upswing, however. The average audience for the awards from 2011-17 is 28.18 million viewers. That includes the nearly 40 million who watched the 2012 awards, which aired a day after the death of Whitney Houston and featured a tribute to her. Factor that out, and the other shows this decade have averaged between 26.5 million viewers, higher than the ’90s or ’00s, and never fallen more than a hair below 25 million.
Some of that increase in viewership vs. past decades can be explained away by population growth. But household ratings — which are a good historical comparison since they’re a constant measure of the percentage of TV homes watching — have rebounded considerably from last decade. Since 2011 the Grammys have averaged a 15.9 household rating, up 23 percent from the 2001-10 period and basically even with the 1990s.