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‘Idol’ beats Olympics in ratings race

Fox tops night over NBC's Winter Games

On Tuesday of this week, in their first head-to-head matchup, Fox’s “American Idol” easily topped NBC’s coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. The music megahit barely missed a beat from the comparable night a year ago, prompting NBC’s senior VP of sports marketing Mike McCarley to offer something of a back-handed compliment.

“Congratulations to ‘American Idol.’ The show extended its six-year undefeated streak from 221-0 to 222-0. The show is a juggernaut,” he said.

Indeed, there is no shame in losing to “American Idol,” whose two-hour edition on Tuesday averaged a prelim 9.1/22 in adults 18-49 and 23.6 million viewers overall. Show retained 95% or more of its delivery for the same night last year, and beat the Olympics by 78% in 18-49 (9.1 vs. 5.1) and by even larger margins in younger categories.

For the season, “American Idol” has retained an impressive 96% of its 18-49 average from last year.

As for the Winter Olympics, NBC’s primetime portion averaged a 5.4/14 in adults 18-49 and 20.4 million viewers overall, putting up its best numbers from 10 to 11 p.m. after “Idol” ended (6.2/17 in 18-49, 21.8 million viewers overall). This makes it the lowest-rated night of the Vancouver Games to date, but it’s still easily NBC’s top-rated Tuesday of the season.

And the Games held up better than four years ago, with the Olympics up and “Idol” down.

ABC ran third on the night, led by “Lost” (4.5/10 in 18-49, 9.8 million viewers overall), which posted its second week of declines following its strong season premiere a couple of weeks ago.

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