CBS Hopes James Corden’s Broadway-Themed Carpool Karaoke Will Boost Sunday’s Tony Awards Ratings

But the viral videos haven't had a linear impact

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James Corden has deployed the biggest gun in his arsenal—Carpool Karaoke—in an effort to boost ratings for Sunday's Tony Awards. 

The Late Late Show host, who is hosting Sunday's 70th Annual Tony Awards on CBS, unveiled a Broadway-themed segment of his viral sensation, Carpool Karaoke, during last night's show.

In the video, Corden was joined by Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda (who has four of Hamilton's record 16 Tony nominations), and a trio of Broadway heavyweights: Audra McDonald (starring in Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed), Jane Krakowski (a Tony nominee for the musical She Loves Me) and Modern Family's Jesse Tyler Ferguson (appearing in the one-man show, Fully Committed). They sang songs from Broadway hits like Hamilton, Rent and Les Miserables.

It was an essential piece of marketing for the Tonys, given that Corden has more internet buzz than any other late-night performer. Since Corden began hosting The Late Late Show in March 2015, his videos have been viewed more than a billion times on YouTube, and he now has the two most-viewed late-night clips of all time: Adele Carpool Karaoke (107.6 million and counting) and Justin Bieber Carpool Karaoke (78.2 million).

Monday's Broadway-themed Carpool Karaoke, which contains a Tony Awards "bug" touting Sunday's airdate, has already racked up more than 200,000 views.

While the video will certainly raise the profile of Sunday's telecast, it's less certain that it will give this year's Tonys a ratings bump, as Corden's digital success hasn't yet translated into any linear growth for his show. The Late Late Show's demo ratings are virtually identical to last season's (0.33 this season, 0.34 last season), putting it behind NBC's Late Night with Seth Meyers (0.48 this season and last season). Late Late Show is also No. 2 in total viewers: 1.28 million, compared to Late Night's 1.60 million. And Corden's previous venture into prime time, March's The Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special, drew a soft 4.17 million viewers (and a 0.9 in the demo).

CBS would love to see an improvement on last year's Tonys, which were viewed by 6.46 million (and a 1.0 rating in the 18-49 demo), down from the 7.02 million (and 1.2 rating) who tuned in to 2014's ceremony. The ceremony's record low was 2012 when just 6.01 million tuned in (and a 1.0 rating), while the best rating in recent years came in 2009 when 7.43 million tuned in (1.3 rating).

This year, at least, the telecast won't have to contend with the NBA Finals; if there is a Game 5, it will be held on Monday night, not Sunday.

If the show enjoys any ratings increases, they are likely to come from the frenzy around Hamilton. However, the last couple of musicals that became full-fledged pop culture phenomena failed to move the ratings needle for Tony audiences. Tonys ratings were flat in 2001, despite the blockbuster success of The Producers (and the show was even hosted by stars Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane). More recently, The Book of Mormon was a huge hit in 2011, but Tony viewership actually fell slightly that year, from 7.0 million in 2010 to 6.9 million.

In addition to last night's Carpool Karaoke video, Corden is making the publicity rounds to promote the Tonys, appearing this week on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, CBS This Morning and The Howard Stern Show where he told Stern that he's not interested in taking over The Late Show from Colbert. "That's never going to happen," Corden said, adding that Colbert's show "is working." 

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.