Analysis:’American Idol’ premiere ratings

01.14.09 9 years ago


Bottom line: The premiere of the eighth season of “American Idol” drew 30.1 million viewers. It wasn’t just the largest audience of the season for any American television broadcast. It was the largest audience by nearly seven million viewers. 

Clearly that’s why the headline of the Reuters story on the premiere reads “‘American Idol’ debut audience slides.” 

The Hollywood Reporter offers the tempered “‘Idol’ ratings huge, yet lowest yet.”

More analysis on Tuesday (Jan. 13) night’s ratings after the bump…

Actually, the Reuters headline is probably closer to the truth. The 2008 “American Idol” premiere drew 33.4 million (final Nielsen figures, rather than Fast National), which was already down from 37.4 million for the 2007 premiere, 33.5 million for the 2006 premiere and 33.6 million for the 2005 premiere. So it would be hard to disagree with the notion that the “American Idol” audience did, indeed, slide.

The Reuters story leaves out the basic fact that everything on television is down this season, isn’t it? Yes. Yes it is. And that the idea of an unscripted show maintaining anywhere close to this level of season-to-season retention in its eighth installment is nearly unprecedented. 

The Reporter story is just utterly and completely factually inaccurate. In 2004, “Idol” kicked off with a Monday night special (just under 29 million) and then saw 28.6 million and 29.4 million viewers come out on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m not so awesome with math, but those numbers are lower than this year’s premiere figures. 

Aren’t they? 

Obviously FOX would be happier if “Idol” had retained 100% of last year’s premiere audience.

But the network’s research staff is accentuating that 28% advantage over the season’s previous most-watched program (the 23.5 million who turned in for the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” premiere). 

In addition, “American Idol” did an 11.6 rating in the key 18-49 demographic, 57% better than the year’s previous champ, a September episode of “Grey’s Anatomy.” The premiere did a 9.7 rating in the 18-34 demo, up 24 % on the year’s previous champ, and a 10.8 rating among teens, more than double the teen rating for any show this season.

Lest you think I’m being FOX flack here, I’d be remiss in not pointing out that last year’s “Idol” premiere had a 13.8 rating in the 18-49 demographic. That’s not an insignificant drop, especially since the 2007 “Idol” premiere had a 15.8 rating in that demo and the 2006 premiere had a 15.3 rating. 

And while the 18-34 numbers were robust, last year’s premiere had a 12.9 rating in that demo. And the 2008 premiere’s teen audience was a 12.3 rating.

“Idol” may have premiered big, but it hardly impacted CBS’ procedurals at all. “NCIS” drew nearly 18.5 million viewers, while “The Mentalist” drew nearly 18.1. Those shows seem to be “Idol”-proof. 

Not surprisingly, though, The CW’s female-centric Tuesday dramas weren’t so lucky. Only 2.18 million people watched “90210,” but that audience was robust compared to the 1.13 million for “Privileged.” Also feeling the pain was ABC’s “Scrubs,” which was down to 4.48 million viewers and a 2.2 rating in the 18-49 demo in its second week on the network.

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