By Eric Kelsey
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Even as viewership for Sunday night's Primetime Emmy Awards telecast on CBS rose for the second consecutive year, critics panned the U.S. TV industry's top honors as a dull showcase that gave its winners and nominees short shrift.
Early audience figures measured by Nielsen totaled 17.6 million viewers, a 33 percent increase from last year's ceremony, which was broadcast on Disney's ABC, CBS said on Monday.
But the telecast, which was hosted by popular "How I Met Your Mother" actor Neil Patrick Harris, found a legion of critical detractors saying the program focused too much on tributes to deceased actors and song-and-dance numbers while cutting short winners' speeches and segments on nominated shows.
"The thing I regretted about it most is that I've never seen a show that presented fewer clips from actual TV programs when they needed it more than ever," TV critic David Bianculli said.
Bianculli, who runs the Tvworthwatching.com website, added that with online-delivered shows like Netflix's "House of Cards" and premium cable networks like HBO and Showtime garnering several top nominations, fewer people are able to watch Emmy-nominated shows than in the past.
"The audience is more fragmented than ever with shows coming from more sources," he added. "The Emmys is one time that all viewers are coming under one roof ... to not have them (more clips of nominated shows) is not using time wisely."
Brian Lowry of industry publication Variety bemoaned how little time winners were given to deliver an acceptance speech to make room for tribute segments and planned musical numbers.
"Isn't the reaction of those performers - joyful, giddy, tearful, self-indulgent, whatever - one of the reasons people tune in, to see stars in unscripted moments?" Lowry wrote.
Actress Claire Danes, who won best drama actress for the second straight year for Showtime's "Homeland," and comedian Stephen Colbert, whose Comedy Central fake news show won best variety series, had their speeches noticeably cut short.
"This year's awards were competent, perhaps, but created scant opportunity for the gods to favor them," Lowry added.
The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney was equally unimpressed, calling the show "wildly hit and miss."
"This was an Emmy telecast so plodding, lifeless and just plain glum that even the overdue best drama win for 'Breaking Bad' failed to provide a lift at the end of the show," Rooney said.
The telecast's viewership benefited from an overrun of an NFL football game that led into the show's 8 p.m. ET time slot, but also might have been helped by the popularity of host Harris and interest in the nominees, Bianculli said.
The Emmys overall placed second on Sunday night to NBC's "Sunday Night Football" game between the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Steelers, which attracted 18.7 million viewers, according to early figures.
(Editing by Mary Milliken and Eric Walsh)