NHK's "Kohaku" year-end music show earned a viewership rating of just 39.2 percent on New Year's Eve — the lowest in the annual extravaganza's 65-year history, according to TV audience researcher Video Research Ltd.

In its heyday, the music show featuring the year's most successful singers logged a staggering rating of 81.4 percent, in 1963.

Both ratings were compiled by Video Research and represent the results from the Kanto region.

The program, which used to be loved by all generations, "failed to attract people who never watched Kohaku," said music industry analyst Takashi Usui.

"Artists popular with youths appeared early in the show, and its finale consisted only of safe options based on past hit songs. There were no surprises, which ought to be a characteristic of a live program."

"Kohaku Uta Gassen" ("Red and White Song Battle") has been divided into two parts since 1989. The rating for the second part, which includes the finale, is considered the show's primary barometer of popularity.

For the latest show, that rating sank 3.0 points from the previous year.

The Kanto rating for the first part was 34.8 percent, down 0.3 point.

But Usui said that the results do not reflect those who watched the show on smartphones, so it still has the potential to make a comeback.

"Young people used to think 'Kohaku' was uncool. This image is waning and the show can increase its popularity by using more ingenuity in production and a wiser order for the singers," he said.

"Kohaku" started in 1951 as a radio program. The show puts female singers in the red group and male singers in the white group. At the end of the show, judges and the audience vote to decide which group performed better.