Jon Cryer, Margo Martindale and Ashton Kutcher Jon Cryer, Margo Martindale and Ashton Kutcher

The 63rd Primetime Emmy Awards on Fox averaged some 12.4 million TV fans, an 8 percent drop from last year when the show lured 13.5 million, according to overnight ratings data the Nielsen Co. released Monday.

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Its 4.2 rating in the industry-prized 18-to-49 demographic, though, was up a tad from 2010's 4.1. Certainly, there was no beating the spread against NBC's Sunday Night Football, which put a hurtin' on the Emmys just like the Falcons did to Michael Vick and the Eagles, pulling in 21.52 million viewers and a 9.2 in the coveted demo.

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That, of course, was no surprise, considering that football has outdrawn the Emmy ceremony head to head four consecutive times (with the asterisk that NBC aired the awards last year on Aug. 29, meaning it didn't vie with football). Plus, interest was enhanced by Vick's return to Atlanta, where he became an NFL star before serving prison time for his dog-fighting scandal.

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On the eve of the first full day of the 2011-12 TV season, the game scored a 15.7 household rating vs. 9.4 for the Emmys — which received decidedly mixed reviews. Opinion aside, the empirical evidence looks painfully telling: the audience was smallest in the final half-hour — when the biggest awards were handed out.