Fox drama takes advantage of 'Idol' lead-in

Fox drama “Lie to Me” opened to pretty good numbers on Wednesday, taking advantage of its massive “American Idol” lead-in to finish roughly on par in its hour with ABC’s season premiere of “Lost,” which remains a ratings force despite erosion.

“Idol,” meanwhile, bounced back Wednesday after a subpar Tuesday outing when some auds were likely caught up in inauguration festivities. Through two weeks, it’s far and away television’s top series, but it’s down year to year by more than 10% in most key categories.

According to national estimates from Nielsen that include same-night DVR playback, “American Idol” dominated Wednesday’s opening hour with a 9.8 rating/25 share in adults 18-49 and 25.9 million viewers overall from 8 to 9:03 p.m. — improving on its numbers from the previous night for a second straight week. In the 8 o’clock hour, “Idol” beat its combined ABC-CBS-NBC-CW competition by 6 shares in adults 18-49.

And behind “Idol,” new Tim Roth drama “Lie to Me” averaged a 4.9/12 in 18-49 and 12.37 million viewers overall from 9:03 to 10:06 p.m., including a 4.6/11 and 11.5 million viewers overall during the 9:30 half-hour, when it trailed “Lost” in all key demo categories.

“Lie to Me,” whose premiere bagged the best 18-49 score for any new series this season, will continue to air at 9 p.m. following “Idol” until mid-February, when the two programs swap slots.

Over at ABC, following a “Lost” recap special at 8 p.m. (3.3/9 in 18-49, 8.51m), the two-hour, fifth-season premiere of the island adventure series averaged a 5.0/12 in 18-49 and 11.35 million viewers overall, edging out “Lie to Me” in 18-49 in its regular 9 o’clock slot and then winning easily in key demos at 10.

“Lost” was down 26% from its year-ago hourlong premiere on a Thursday, although that episode did not face any firstrun drama competition.

Wednesday’s “Lost” did improve a bit over its final-month’s average last season. And it should be noted that “Lost” is consistently at or near the top of the list of programs that benefit most from DVR playback, last season jumping by about 20% in rating from its “live plus same-day” to its “live plus seven-day” averages.

Nielsen reports that DVR penetration has reached 35% nationally among adults 18-49, up from 27% in January of last year.

Elsewhere, CBS opened the night with average scores for comedies “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 7.29m) and “Gary Unmarried” (2.2/5, 6.97m), as neither seems fazed by “American Idol.”

At 9 “Criminal Minds” was below average (3.4/8, 13.82m), understandably affected by the two premiering dramas in its hour but still prevailing in total viewers. And at 10, “CSI: NY” (2.9/7, 11.58m) was also on the low side, placing second in demos.

NBC had a soft night all around, opening with “Knight Rider” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 4.93m) and a repeat “Law & Order: SVU” (1.6/4, 5.20m). The net then improved at 10 p.m. with an original “Law & Order” (2.4/6, 8.27m), which was up week to week but remained third in its timeslot.

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