The Emmys Draw Big Audience: How Does 2021 Compare to Past Years in Ratings?

by Jennifer Shea
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In an unusual surge, the Emmys outdid other major television events this year. The awards show actually increased audience share from years past.

According to Nielsen, about 7.4 million people watched the Emmys Sunday night. That’s a significant increase over 6.1 million last year and 6.9 million in 2019, the Associated Press reports.

CBS claims the total viewership number will tick up slightly when Nielsen includes people who watched the awards show outside of their own homes. Those numbers have yet to be released.

The Emmys Were Great for Netflix, HBO

It was a big night for both Netflix and HBO. They took home 10 and nine awards, respectively.

Netflix’s “The Crowd” scored big time, bringing home seven awards. That was the most given to any show, according to CNBC. “The Queen’s Gambit” and “Halston” also won Emmys on Sunday night.

Meanwhile, HBO, which is owned by AT&T, boasted nine wins. That was thanks to “Mare of Easttown,” “Last Week Tonight,” “Hacks” and “I May Destroy You.”

Apple TV+ also made a respectable showing. Its “Ted Lasso” won four awards – Best Comedy Series, Best Actor – Comedy (Jason Sudeikis), Best Supporting Actor – Comedy (Brett Goldstein) and Best Supporting Actress – Comedy (Hannah Waddingham).

The Emmy Awards ceremony moved this year from the Microsoft Theater, where it has been since 2008, to L.A. Live’s Event Deck. That allowed guests to gather at small tables instead of massing in rows in a theater setup.

How Conan O’Brien Stole the Show

Late-night comedian Conan O’Brien managed to be the center of attention at several key points during the awards ceremony, although he did not take home an award.

For instance, Television Academy Chairman and CEO Frank Scherma began the presentation of the Governor’s Award with a speech about diversity. O’Brien, ever the ham, stood up to salute him and went on clapping long after the rest of the audience had stopped.

And when John Oliver landed an award for “Last Week Tonight,” he said, “Like many of us in this room, I was kind of rooting for ‘Conan.’ So this is bittersweet. Thank you so much, Conan, for 30 years of inspiring comedy writers.” (O’Brien’s talk show, “Conan,” ended this June, so this was its last shot at an Emmy.) The cameras then cut to O’Brien.

Finally, when Stephen Colbert won an award for his election special, O’Brien bounded onstage to accept the award. As O’Brien stood behind him, cheering energetically, alongside Colbert’s team, Colbert said, “Most of the people behind me really deserve this Emmy.”

O’Brien’s antics garnered rave reviews on social media, with celebrities and viewers at home both commenting on his performance.

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