Concerns at collapse in Sanremo music festival ratings
Second night of televised event sees viewership drop severely20 February, 17:15
According to ratings data, Wednesday's figures were well below the opening night audience for the 64th annual publicly-funded song competition and prime-time entertainment extravaganza, and significantly lower than the numbers of viewers who tuned in during the same time last year.
The ratings data showed that Wednesday night, about 8.9 million viewers, or about 33.52% of the Italian viewing audience for that time of night, tuned into the first half of the show.
The figures averaged about 33.95% of the late-night viewing audience, or about 3.7 million viewers, in the second half. That was about 3.6 million viewers less than recorded during the same time slot on the second night of last year's music festival.
The timing of this year's festival posed some difficulties as it coincides with the Winter Olympic games under way in Sochi, Russia.
As well, soccer matches dominated several television channels.
Host Fabio Fazio defended the show, saying that he was "proud" of it and refused to speculate on whether he would return to next year's music festival, an event that combines nostalgia and well-known classics with up-and-coming stars.
"I do not know; let me finish this festival and then we'll see," said Fazio. When he returns to the stage Thursday night, he will introduce such acts as Renzo Rubino, Giuy Ferreri, Cristiano De Andrè, Raphael Gualazzi and The Bloody Beetroots as well as Antonella Ruggiero.
A top contender for the Sanremo title this year, Noemi, will also hit the stage dressed in Gattinoni couture whose creative director Guillermo Mariotto is known for provocative creations appreciated by pop stars like Madonna.
The five-day festival pits 14 artists against each other and eight upcoming singers for the title of best new talent.
The event dates to 1951, when only two participants were involved.
Since then it has launched the careers of a number of Italy's top singers including Eros Ramazotti and Laura Pausini.
The show, broadcast on State television RAI 1, has been the target of anti-establishment comic-turned-politician Beppe Grillo of the 5-Star Movement for its 18-million-euro price tag.
Grillo staged a demonstration outside the event late Tuesday, calling it "emptiness par excellence" and a factor in Italy's "political and economic disaster". Nevertheless, RAI says the show will rake in 20.2 million euros in advertising, plus 600,000 euros in ticket sales for the event that ends Saturday night.
RAI 1 Director Giancarlo Leone had hoped the show would draw ratings of "somewhere between the 35.4% low of 2004 and the 2013 peak of 47.3%". The show has also been marred by other controversies such as complaints against the openly-gay singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright's decision to perform his song Gay Messiah.
The Catholic youth organisation Papaboys criticized his scheduled performance amid calls for the management of state broadcaster RAI to 'intervene or resign' against what the group called "blasphemy".
Besides music, fashion plays a top role, with designers vying to dress leading figures taking part in the event.
For the opening night of the festival, an institution for music fans as well as star-gazers, French actress Laetitia Casta wore a voluptuous haute couture creation designed by Italy's Riccardo Tisci for French fashion house Givenchy to mark her comeback as a guest star, after making an appearance in 1999.
Italian actresses Cristiana Capotondi and Violante Placido chose Dolce&Gabbana and a number of other artists are rumoured to be donning one of the designing duo's high-impact numbers for the festival.
Co-host Luciana Littizetto will be wearing Gucci throughout the festival.