Fox scores second sweeps victory

'House' solid despite 'Idol' slippage

“American Idol” may be down, but it’s hardly out: While ratings for television’s No. 1 series have softened this season, none of Fox’s rivals has been able to take advantage.

On the second Tuesday of the May sweep, “Idol” saw its lowest score on the night in two years but nevertheless teamed with “House” to lift Fox to a decisive victory for its two hours and for the night overall.

With “Idol” slipping while “House” remained about as strong as a year ago, the medical mystery held onto more of its “Idol” lead-in than any show to date — 95% or more in various demo categories.

According to same-day Nielsen nationals for Tuesday, the performance edition of “American Idol” kicked off the night a big winner for Fox (9.3 rating/28 share in adults 18-49, 25.47 million viewers overall) but came in 20% lower than its demo rating of the same night a year ago (11.3/31).

Dissatisfaction with this year’s finalists could be partly to blame, although it could be that even TV’s No. 1 show isn’t immune to the spring swoon that has seen a wide swath of hits — including “CSI,” “Heroes” and “Desperate Housewives” — lose a sizeable number of viewers since daylight-saving time started.

Even a milder “Idol” had no problem dominating the competition; time-period vets “NCIS” on CBS (3.1/9 in 18-49, 13.88m) and “Gilmore Girls” on the CW (1.8/5, 3.99m) were also down year to year.

“House” controlled the 9 o’clock hour (8.9/23, 21.36m), coming in just slightly lower than a year ago despite the smaller lead-in. The third-year medical mystery skein retained 96% of “Idol’s” 18-49 audience — the most for any show to air behind the music competition to date — while actually building on “Idol” in adults 18-34 (7.9 vs. 7.6) and teens (5.7 vs. 5.4).

“Dancing With the Stars” was a solid but distant runner-up in the hour (4.2/11, 16.86m), helping ABC become the only major net to improve upon its perf of the same night a year ago.

CBS’ “The Unit” placed third (3.1/8, 10.74m), as its season finale notched the show’s best numbers in a couple of months.

NBC moved to the lead at 10 with “Law & Order: SVU” (3.8/11, 10.94m), with ABC’s “Boston Legal” a distant runner-up (2.5/7, 9.98m).

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