The Emmys Just Set A Terrible Record

The viewer numbers for the 2022 Primetime Emmy Awards hit a record low, to just under 6 million viewers.

By Michileen Martin | Published

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Whoever organizes the 2023 Primetime Emmys, they just might end up discussing whether or not there should be more on-stage slapping next year, and maybe fewer nominations to HBO projects. As CNN reports, in spite of Emmy viewership rebounding in 2021, this week’s awards show hit an all-time low. According to Nielsen data, only 5.9 million viewers tuned in to see who would win Monday night; the lowest numbers so far recorded.

As for why audiences went elsewhere for their entertainment, CNN says right now most observers think the most likely culprit is something of an interesting irony; while most of the biggest Emmys went to original programs from either streaming services or premium channels, the awards show was broadcast on NBC. The three big winners of the night, for example, were Succession and The White Lotus from HBO, along with Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso. So if you don’t have HBO, HBO Max, Apple TV+, Netflix, Showtime, Hulu, or Amazon Prime Video, why bother watching if there’s no one to root for?

Going down the list of nominations shows just how much the Emmys were dominated by original programs from streaming services and/or premium channels. Of the seven series nominated for Outstanding Drama series (won by Succession), the only nominee that doesn’t originate from a premium or streaming service was AMC’s Better Call Saul. Same result with the nominees for Lead Actor in a Drama Series (won by Squid Game’s Lee Jung-jae), though Lead Actress in a Drama Series (won by Euphoria‘s Zendaya) was just a little bit kinder to basic networks; with two actresses from basic cable series getting noms, but both from the same series (Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer from BBC America’s Killing Eve).

But when it comes to winners, the premium and streaming services ruled the roost. Scan the full list of nominees and winners at Vulture, and you’ll see of all the trophies given out, only three winning Emmys were for basic network shows. Saturday Night Live–which only had one competitor–won for Outstanding Variety Sketch Series and Abbot Elementary won for both Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series (Quinta Brunson) and Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (Sheryl Lee Ralph).

Fittingly, it was one of these three Emmys that provided the most controversial moment of the evening. A lot of fans criticized co-presenter Jimmy Kimmel for committing way too far into a bit in which he pretended to be drunk and unconscious on stage when Quinta Brunson accepted her Outstanding Writing award. The bit forced Brunson not only to step over Kimmel when presenting the award, but to give her acceptance speech over his body while he remained prone on the floor.

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Quinta Brunson delivers her acceptance speech while Jimmy Kimmel shows everyone what a jerk looks like.

It wasn’t exactly on the level of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock, but on a smaller scale Kimmel’s antics had the same impact in at least one sense. Just as Smith’s slap took the attention for the rest of the Oscars ceremony away from his colleagues’ deserved wins, Kimmel spent his time on the Emmys stage taking the attention away from Brunson — the first Black woman to earn three Emmy nominations in the comedy category.