(CNN) -- Maybe it was Beyonce, or maybe it was the Beatles. (Actually, it was probably both.) The Grammy Awards attracted 28.5 million viewers to CBS on Sunday night, which is essentially a modern-day record for the annual music awards show.
CBS described it in a press release as "the second largest audience for the awards broadcast since 1993." Awards shows in general have been on a ratings upswing in recent years. One oft-cited reason is that, since they're big live events, they stand out in an increasingly on-demand television world.
Sunday's telecast would have been the biggest since 1993, period, were it not for the tragic circumstances of the 2012 Grammys. That year, Whitney Houston died less than 24 hours before the awards telecast, causing a dramatic surge in viewership the next day. (The average viewership was about 40 million.)
The Grammys are typically the second most popular awards show of the year behind the Academy Awards. This year's average viewership was just a smidge higher than last year's average of 28.4 million. (CBS pointed out that a more apples-to-apples comparison was between this year and 2010, the last time the Grammys were scheduled in January instead of February to avoid the Winter Olympics. In 2010, 25.9 million viewers tuned in.)
For CBS, the ratings increase this year may justify the network's controversial decision to tape-delay the Grammys in western parts of the United States. Most awards shows are broadcast live coast-to-coast, something that matters more than ever nowadays because millions of people like to converse about the shows on the Internet while they're watching. But CBS continues to delay the Grammys until prime time begins out West, when it says more people are at home and able to watch.
CBS' news release on Monday cited data from Nielsen's SocialGuide service that labeled the Grammys "the biggest social television event of the 2013-2014 TV season to date, with Twitter recording more than 15.2 million tweets during the Eastern and Central time zone broadcast alone." The network did not say how many tweets there were during the Mountain and Pacific time zone broadcast.
With regard to the West Coast tape-delay, Chris Ender, a CBS spokesman, pointed out that the Grammys is a performance-driven show, and that the social media chatter during the East Coast broadcast "often drives more awareness and interest to viewers elsewhere."
"We're continuing to do what works, delivering a broadcast that can be watched by the most amount of viewers," Ender said.