The 50th annual Grammy Awards, featuring clear front runners Amy Winehouse and Kanye West, attracted fewer viewers compared to last year, in spite of being the most-watched U.S. television show on Sunday night.

Preliminary results from Nielsen Media Research showed that this could be the third least-watched Grammy Awards show ever, drawing only 17.5 million viewers. The CBS live broadcast showcased the years top recording artists in a 3 and half hour long show.

Viewership is down from the 20 million people who watched last year. The 2006 awards, with 17 million viewers, is the Grammy lowest point to date with the closest viewership of 17.3 million in 1995. The show appears to have done best in the 9 p.m. half hour, around the time the Foo Fighters rocked the outdoor stage. In those 30 minutes, the show averaged 20.1 million viewers.

The Grammys' biggest competition this year came from a two-hour episode of the ABC reality show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. From 8-10 p.m., the show averaged 15.8 million viewers compared to the Grammys' 19.1 million.

The awards extravaganza was hit with an overall TV slump following the Hollywood writer's strike which has left viewers watching reruns, game shows or reality shows. Media analysts say that award shows general ratings have declined in recent years.

Amy Winehouse, the troubled British soul singer who just got of rehab, failed to attend Sunday's 50th annual Grammy Awards in person, but proved a dominating figure nonetheless, raking up five trophies against her toughest competition, rap star Kanye West.

She was nominated in six categories, including all four top categories: album of the year, song of the year, record of the year and best new artist. In the end, Winehouse won five awards including best new artist, best pop vocal album for Back To Black and best female pop vocal.

Earlier in the week, the U.S. embassy in London had denied Winehouse a visa to attend the Grammys, but was later granted a visa on Friday. Her reps said she would not be attending, citing logistics involved and timing complications. Instead, the show featured her two-song performance live from Riverside Studios in London at 4 am GMT.

The most sought-after prize, for album of the year, went to veteran jazzman Hancock for his Joni Mitchell tribute disc. Hancock, whose River: The Joni Letters won album of the year, said after the show Sunday night at the Staples Center that it was immeasurable how surprised I am.

I'd like to thank the academy for courageously breaking the mold this time, he said upon accepting the award. This is a new day that proves that the impossible can be made possible. Yes we can, to coin a phrase.

The awards extravaganza likely suffered from a viewership slump that hit TV as a whole this season, in part due to a glut of reruns, game shows and reality shows caused by the Hollywood writers strike. But award shows also have seen a general ratings decline in recent years.