Grammy TV audience booms with mix of stars, scandal

Mon Feb 9, 2009 2:48pm EST
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 19 million Americans watched a mix of veterans like Paul McCartney and new stars like Taylor Swift perform at the Grammy Awards on Sunday -- an 11 percent increase from last year, according to preliminary television ratings on Monday.

The 3 1/2-hour music awards show on CBS was seen by 19.05 million U.S. households, compared to 17.18 million in 2008, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research.

Former Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant and bluegrass artist Alison Krauss came away with a leading five Grammys for their "Raising Sand" collaboration on a night that also saw performances and trophies for British band Coldplay, singer Jennifer Hudson, British newcomer Adele and rapper Kanye West.

"The Recording Academy put on quite a show -- an unprecedented 24 performances and a range of artists that appealed to 'tweens,' teens, young adults and (baby) boomers," said Jack Sussman, an executive vice president at CBS Entertainment.

Stevie Wonder teamed up on stage with the Jonas Brothers and Disney idol Miley Cyrus, 16, performed with teen country sensation Taylor Swift in a show opened by rock band U2.

Behind the scenes, Grammy organizers scrambled to fill the opening left by R&B artist Chris Brown, who dropped out at the last minute and was arrested on charges of assaulting a young woman, thought to be his girlfriend, singer Rihanna. Rihanna also was a surprise no-show on the music industry's biggest night.

The increased viewer ratings provided some cheer to an industry fighting a losing battle to maintain album sales in an era of legal and illegal digital downloads.

Last year's Grammy ceremony audience was the third smallest since the event first aired for a national audience in 1971.   Continued...

<p>Recording artists Justin Timberlake and T.I. (R) perform at the 51st annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, February 8, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>