Fox special wins night but suffers erosion

Despite winning the night convincingly, Fox’s “Idol Gives Back” spesh suffered a huge hit Wednesday compared with its first outing last year.

The philanthropic “Idol Gives Back” fell 34% in the 18-49 demo and 35% in total viewers from last year when it aired April 25, according to Nielsen.

After starting out against mostly syndicated competition at 7:30, “Idol Gives Back” earned a 6.8 rating/18 share from 8-10 p.m. in the 18-49 demo, down from the 10.2/27 in 2007. The special landed 17.8 million viewers, down 35% from the 26.9 million from last year.

While “Idol” has suffered erosion this year on both its two weekly broadcasts, much of the huge drop-off in “Idol Gives Back” can be attributed to the fact that there was a contestant eliminated in the waning minutes of last year’s special. Not so on Wednesday, which was 2½ hours (plus a small spillover into the 10 o’clock hour) without any drama as to who would be kicked off.

Fox won the night with a 6.7/18 and 17.5 million viewers overall. CBS, behind the strength of crime procedurals “Criminal Minds” and “CSI: NY,” took second place with 2.8/7 and 10.4 million viewers. ABC (2.2/6, 6.1m) and NBC (1.9/5, 6.9m) followed for third and fourth place, respectively.

On the latenight front and for the first time ever, CBS’ “Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson” defeated NBC’s “Late Night With Conan O’Brien” in total viewers for a full week of original, head-to-head broadcasts. “Late Late Show” got a boost from the return of the Eye’s original scripted skeins in the 10 p.m. hour.

For the week of March 31-April 4, “Late Late Show” averaged 1.88 million viewers to 1.77 million viewers for “Conan.” In adults 18-49, “Late Night” held a small edge, 0.7/4 to 0.6/4.

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