Singing series are season's top shows in key demo

Fox’s “American Idol” has ruled as primetime’s top-rated series among young adults for seven straight years, but it’s got its work cut out for it this spring.

Upstart music competish “The Voice” on NBC, which benefited from a post-Super Bowl launch in kicking off its second season, has the lead among non-sports shows heading into the final seven weeks of the season. Based on recent trend lines, it could be a photo finish.

(Whichever emerges on top actually has to settle for second overall, as NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” will be the clear No. 1 show in the adults 18-49 demo for the first time.)

For the season, “Idol” is down vs. last year by 20% or more in most categories, while “Voice” is up overall, but those gains are diminishing. Through April 1, “The Voice” was averaging a 7.0 rating for its first nine episodes, while “American Idol” averaged a 6.6 for its first 11 weeks.

Of course, “The Voice” wouldn’t hold its current advantage if not for a Nielsen loophole that allowed the show’s second-season premiere — airing Feb. 5 following the Super Bowl, less than 24 hours before its regular-timeslot bow on Monday — to count in the averages.

“American Idol” has been the higher-rated show over the past month after “The Voice” held the edge for four of their first five common weeks. The Fox show also has been more consistent, holding steady in recent weeks, while the NBC series has generally drifted downward.

After the performance editions of the two music contests, it’s a tight three-way battle for third in 18-49 between the “Idol” results show (6.0) and comedies “Modern Family” on ABC (5.9) and “The Big Bang Theory” on CBS (5.8), with another laffer, CBS vet “Two and a Half Men,” a bit further behind (5.4).

In total viewers, “Sunday Night Football” (20.7 million) and “American Idol” (20.3 million) are neck-and-neck, with CBS crime drama “NCIS” (19.7 million) a bit further back; if you count only its original episodes, though, “NCIS” would be the leader.

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