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‘Idol’ opens at all-time high

Morning Ratings Flash - Rick Kissell

Fox’s “American Idol” kicked off its fifth season with its best-ever premiere numbers Tuesday night, rising nearly 10% ahead of last year’s score, according to preliminary nationals from Nielsen.

From 8 to 10, “Idol” averaged a whammo 15.2 rating/34 share in adults 18-49 and 35.4 million viewers overall, making it the highest-rated primetime entertainment telecast in the demo since the finale of “Friends” on NBC in May 2004. It beat the other five broadcast nets combined by an amazing 26% in adults 18-49 (15.3 vs. 12.1), by 108% in teens (13.7 vs. 6.6) and by 15% in total viewers (35.5 million vs. 31.0 million).

This year’s opener came in 9% ahead of last year in 18-49 and 6% better in total viewers, and it’s the second highest-rated “Idol” episode to date behind the May 2003 season two finale.

The only other Fox entertainment program to ever rate higher in 18-49 was the season finale of short-lived unscripted farce “Joe Millionaire” in February 2003.

Elsewhere on the night, CBS ran second from 8 to 9 with “NCIS” (3.9/9 in 18-49, 17.5 million viewers overall), which was up 26% in 18-49 vs. the same night a year ago opposite the “Idol” premiere. The Eye also did OK at 10 with the series premiere of “Love Monkey” (3.5/9, 8.6 million viewers overall), which outperformed in 18-49 every episode of “Close to Home” to air in the slot this season; show did see a 1 share decline on the half-hour, though.

NBC’s “Fear Factor” was hardly a factor at 8 (all-time low 1.8/4 in 18-49, 4.4 million viewers overall), but picked up some at 9 with “Scrubs” (2.9/6 in 18-49, 6.0 million viewers overall), which was up vs. a year ago vs. the “Idol” premiere. “Law & Order: SVU” rolled to its customary victory at 10 (5.9/14 in 18-49, 16.0 million viewers overall).

ABC’s “Commander in Chief” (2.5/5 in 18-49, 10.8 million viewers overall) continuing its downward trend, while “Boston Legal” (3.3/8 in 18-49, 11.8 million viewers overall) was on par with its recent deliveries despite the lower lead-in.

The WB did well with “Gilmore Girls” (2.4/6 in 18-49, 5.5 million viewers overall), which placed second to “Idol” at 8 in persons 12-34 (3.7/9).

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 15.2/34; CBS, 3.7/8; NBC, 3.6/8; ABC, 2.5/6; WB, 1.9/4; UPN, 0.4/1.

In total viewers: Fox, 35.4 million; CBS, 12.8 million; ABC, 9.4 million; NBC, 8.8 million; WB, 4.8 million; UPN, 1.2 million.

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