Neil Patrick Harris may have saved the Emmys.
Despite facing stiff competition from a monster NFL game, Sunday's 61st Annual Emmy Awards managed to improve its Nielsen numbers vs. 2008's record low-rated disaster.
Sunday's show averaged a 4.2 rating/11 share in adults 18-49 and 13.32 million viewers, according to preliminary fast national Nielsen data. That's up 11 percent in the demo and 8 percent in total viewers; it's the best number for the show since 2006.
There had been fears that this year's Emmys would once again strike out with viewers. A number of smaller shows from cable networks were nominated, and the broadcast was up against a big football game (which ended up being a nail-biter).
However, the Emmys may have been helped in part by their move to CBS this year.
The Eye has great viewer circulation, and generally does better in total viewers than ABC, which aired last year's show.
Harris' widely-praised hosting stint was also no doubt a factor. And exec producer Don Mischer did his damndest to fill every minute of Sunday's show with entertainment.
Despite the year-to-year improvement, all was not golden for Emmy. The broadcast lost viewers throughout the night, starting with a 5.4/12 in the demo at 8 p.m. but dropping to 4.0/9 by its final half-hour.
A big reason for that tune-on was no doubt the NFL game on NBC building to a climax. However, it might also have been the long stretch of time devoted to longform projects most viewers had never heard of.
It's too early to give an exact number for the football game, but early ratings suggest it attracted almost twice as many viewers as the Emmys. That's just a semi-educated guess, however, so don't take that number to the bank.
The Emmys move to NBC next year, the final year of the TV Academy's deal with the big four networks. Networks usually try to hire a host with a connection to their programming, but given the stellar reviews and OK ratings under NPH, NBC might want to consider locking him in now.