Fox reality series on top Wednesday with 26.4 million viewers

Fox’s “American Idol” dropped off some on its second night, but still still crushed everything in its path on Wednesday. ABC’s comedy block held up pretty well, as did CBS drama “Criminal Minds.”

According to preliminary nationals, Wednesday’s 90-minute installment of “American Idol” averaged a 10.1 rating/27 share in adults 18-49 and 26.4 million viewers overall from 8 to 9:30, down from the previous night’s two-hour premiere scores of 11.8/29 in the demo and 29.9 million viewers overall. This is the lowest-rated opening Wednesday of the season for “Idol” since 2003, but at least some of that can be contributed to airing for only 90 minutes; the last half-hour is usually one of the strongest in a two-hour segment. And despite the dropoff, “Idol” beat its combined ABC-CBS-NBC-CW competition by about 50% in adults 18-49.

For its opening two nights, “American Idol” figures to come in about 5% below its year-ago averages.

Elsewhere, ABC’s comedies were down from the previous week’s above-average deliveries but held solid opposite “Idol,” starting with “The Middle” at 8:30 (2.1/6 in 18-49, 6.6 million viewers overall) and “Modern Family” at 9 (3.2/8 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall). And at 9:30 p.m., “Cougar Town” (3.1/8 in 18-49, 7.4 million viewers overall), which seemed to pick up some “American Idol” viewers, retained nearly all of its “Modern Family” lead-in. “Ugly Betty” finished off the night (1.6/4 in 18-49, 5.4 million viewers overall) in line with its numbers of last week.

CBS took a bit of a hit in the night’s opening hour with comedies “The New Adventures of Old Christine” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 6.3 million viewers overall) and “Gary Unmarried” (1.9/5 in 18-49, 5.8 million viewers overall), with the latter failing to match or beat timeslot rival comedy “The Middle” for the first time. The net then surged at 9 p.m. with “Criminal Minds” (3.9/10 in 18-49, 14.0 million viewers overall), which was a solid second for its hour, and held strong at 10 p.m., where “CSI: NY” dominated (3.6/10 in 18-49, 14.1 million viewers overall).

“Mercy” opened the night for NBC with a fourth-place finish among the broadcasters (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.9 million viewers overall) at 8 p.m., and the net stayed in that position at 9 p.m. with “Law & Order: SVU” (2.0/5 in 18-49, 7.7 million viewers overall), which dropped sharply from its season high of the previous week opposite atypical competition. And at 10, “The Jay Leno Show” (1.6/4 in 18-49, 5.4 million viewers overall) was up a tick vs. last week and continues to perform a bit above recent deliveries during a time of buzz and controversy in NBC latenight.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 8.5/22; CBS, 3.1/8; ABC, 2.2/6; NBC, 1.7/5; Univision, 1.4/4; CW, 0.3/1.

In total viewers: Fox, 21.8 million; CBS, 11.4 million; NBC, 6.3 million; ABC, 5.9 million; Univision, 3.8 million; CW, 0.7 million.

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