LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - More than 13 million Americans watched Sunday's Primetime Emmy Awards on television, according to early ratings figures Monday -- the best audience in three years for the TV industry's biggest night.
But although the 13.3 million average audience for Sunday night's glitzy Emmy ceremony on CBS was about 8 percent above on last year's historic low, millions more chose to watch NFL football on rival network NBC.
Drama series "Mad Men" and comedy "30 Rock" again took the top awards Sunday, reflecting the growing disconnect between mass popular TV fare and shows that win critical acclaim but small audiences. "Mad Men" on AMC has about 2 million viewers and NBC's "30 Rock" about 7 million.
Emmy award audiences have likewise fallen steadily in recent years.
Credit for the success of Sunday's Emmy telecast was given mostly to the show's singing, dancing host Neil Patrick Harris, star of the comedy "How I Met Your Mother."
Harris opened the three-hour ceremony with a comic song called "Put down the Remote," and the show was littered with jokes and asides about the growing attractions of the Internet over traditional TV.
Harris drew praise during the show. "You're doing a wonderful job," Jon Stewart told him while collecting an award for "The Daily Show." "You're tremendous. And these shows they usually suck."
"Thanks to Neil Patrick Harris and the writers and producers of this year's Emmy broadcast for reminding us that an award show does not have to be a drag," wrote Los Angeles Times TV critic Mary McNamara.
USA Today said the Emmy show "ranks up there with the best."
But NBC's Sunday Night Football show, which featured the New York Giants and the Dallas Cowboys, out-rated the Emmy Awards telecast by 65 percent in major U.S. cities, NBC said on Monday.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant, editing by Philip Barbara