Fox’s ‘American Idol’ Returns Down 22% in 18-49

American Idol Ratings January 16

Its 4.7 rating, 15.2 million viewers still leads night, is higher than show's most recent finale

Fox’s “American Idol” was hoping to reverse its recent ratings trend as it kicked off its 13th season Wednesday night, but early indications are that it has a lot of work to do to reclaim some of its lost viewers.

According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, the two-hour season premiere of “American Idol” averaged a 4.7 rating/13 share in adults 18-49 and 15.2 million viewers overall. While this made it easily the night’s top show, it was down 22% in the demo and 15% in total viewers from last year.

On the bright side for Fox, Wednesday’s season premiere came in above the show’s prior finale (3.6 rating, 14.3 million last May) — the first time this has happened in four years. And despite its declines, “Idol” from 8 to 10 p.m. outperformed the combined 18-49 deliveries of the two closest networks (ABC and CBS) while beating the combined 18-34 rating of ABC, CBS and NBC (3.7  to 3.5).

With the exception of 2010, when “Idol” actually edged up year-over-year in key demos as Ellen DeGeneres replaced Paula Abdul at the judges’ table, the premiere-night 18-49 rating for the show has declined vs. the previous year by double-digit percentages for each season since 2008. And those falloffs have been at least 17% for each of the last four years.

Wednesday’s premiere rating in 18-49 for “Idol” is 8% lower than that for the most recent premiere of NBC’s music competition series “The Voice” (5.1 in September). In total viewers and teens 12-17, though, “Idol” was more popular than the NBC show’s fall opener.

In a bid to stem the ratings erosion, “American Idol” made some key changes heading into this season. Fox execs have acknowledged that they expected ratings to fall some again this year, but they hope to see some stabilization.

Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj are out as judges, but Keith Urban is back for a second season. He is joined by Jennifer Lopez (back after after a year off in 2013) and newcomer Harry Connick, Jr., while original judge Randy Jackson will return in a mentoring role.

Longtime exec producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick exited after last season, and Per Blankens, producer of the Swedish versions of “The Biggest Loser” and “MasterChef,” is among this season’s exec producers — alongside Simon Fuller, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Trish Kinane, Jesse Ignjatovic and Evan Prager.

Elsewhere in primetime on Wednesday, most shows came in lower than usual — due to the combo of “American Idol” and, in the 10 o’clock hour, the return of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.”

At ABC, the season premiere of “Suburgatory” at 8:30 p.m. (1.6/5 in 18-49, 5.3 million viewers overall) was down sharply from its post-“Modern Family” premiere of last season, but retained most of its demo lead-in from “The Middle” (1.8/6 in 18-49, 7.5 million viewers overall), which hit a season low. “Modern Family” (3.2/9 in 18-49, 9.1 million viewers overall) was also near a low, but was the night’s No. 1 scripted program in 18-49. The net then tumbled from there with “Super Fun Night” (1.6/4 in 18-49, 4.6 million viewers overall) and “Nashville” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 5.1 million viewers overall).

CBS, which placed second to Fox on the night, opened with special repeats of half-hours “Two and a Half Men” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 5.5 million viewers overall) and “The Millers” (1.1/3 in 18-49, 5.0 million viewers overall), and then had a good showing at 9 p.m. with “Criminal Minds” (2.4/7 in 18-49, 10.5 million viewers overall), which tied with ABC’s comedy hour in 18-49 and was the No. 2 scripted show of the  night in 18-49 and total viewers. And at 10 p.m., “CSI” (2.0/6 in 18-49, 10.3 million viewers overall) was in line with its most recent original, besting its drama competition in key demos.

NBC’s dramas “Revolution” (1.3/4 in 18-49, 4.9 million viewers overall), “Law & Order: SVU” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.5 million viewers overall) and “Chicago P.D.” (1.5/4 in 18-49, 5.5 million viewers overall) all came in lower than last week, when they faced softer competition. “Chicago P.D.” was down 25% from its premiere (when it didn’t face either “Nashville” or “CSI”), but it seems very compatible with its “SVU” lead-in, matching the vet’s demo score after dropping slightly from it one week earlier for its premiere. Also, “Chicago P.D.” finished ahead of ABC sophomore “Nashville.”

At CW, “Arrow” (0.9/3 in 18-49, 2.5 million viewers overall) was down from its most recent original, while “The Tomorrow People” (0.6/2 in 18-49, 1.6 million viewers overall) edged up.

Preliminary 18-49 averages for the night: Fox, 4.6/13; CBS, 1.9/5; ABC, 1.8/5; Univision, 1.2/3; CW, 0.8/2; Telemundo, 0.5/2.

In total viewers: Fox, 15.0 million; CBS, 8.6 million; ABC, 6.1 million; NBC, 5.3 million; Univision, 2.9 million; CW, 2.0 million; Telemundo, 1.3 million.

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  1. Dale Evans says:

    American Idol is Sooo much better this year! Love the judges and find them funny and insightful for a change! AI still kills the competition in its ratings!

  2. Worth Austin says:

    After dogs like Argo win Best Picture, the decline of the Oscars as a barometer of artistic achievement becomes apparent. When the best next generation of fine actors like Phoenix and Gosling go unrewarded year after year and need-to-go-away dinosaurs like Redford and Hanks are lamented–and God forbid Oprah was overlooked–WHAT?? Hollywood is creating crap. If foreign films were put in contention rather than having just one chosen (gee thanks, guys), they would dominate today. It’s all very tedious.

  3. Idoler says:

    Give it time. ratings willl improve. This year- the judges are great.

  4. Rex says:

    Nikki is a modern day Joan Rivers. :-(

  5. Crewjobs says:

    Nikki Minaj polluted the show so I and many viewers said we are never going to watch this trash again. Well, we weren’t kidding.

  6. At least in the old days they one individual with an ear who wasn’t afraid to be honest (Simon – he obviously lost that talent on the incredibly crappy “X Factor.”)
    The new judges wet themselves over every hard luck story mediocre singer, then next dismisses someone that doesn’t sound that bad.
    How long until “The Voice” starts?

  7. YouGotToBeKiddingMe says:

    I think it is time to unhitch the horses from that wagon.

  8. Brian says:

    Simon may be complete jack, but he knew when to abandon a sinking ship – sank in 2010.

  9. Gil says:

    As for Jennifer Lopez, being “fake”– well, maybe– but so what? As Pete Townshend once famously said, ‘it’s an eminence front, it’s a put on.” None of us will probably ever know these people personally, so for purposes of being the hosts/mentor/judges etc. all anyone has to do is be likeable to the public and not get in the way of the contestants as they compete… which was largely the problem with the Nicki/Mariah drama last season.

  10. Gil says:

    Remember too, that it’s not just a singing competition. It’s a television show. Obviously, they WANT people with impressive voices, but they also NEED people who will make for good television. These two things are not necessarily diametrically opposed. To make it as an artist in the post-MTV world, you have to be able to fill the screen as well as hit the notes.

  11. Bob White says:

    In the end its a popularity contest and favors men over women and blacks over whites because of the demographics of the voters. I think as people figure this out, many will let it go.

  12. Bob White says:

    It was kind of silly last night. The guys rejected a seemingly talented and very attractive gal that JLo liked and she then JLo seemed to exact revenge by killing some of their faves. It just seems very random this year. These judges seem very emotional and contestants will just have to hit them at the right time to get a fair evaluation.

  13. Miner says:

    J-Lo is still relevant? When did she have talent? That Selena movie was okay but that’s about it.

  14. Craig Taylor says:

    Randy Jackson;s recent lobotomy hasn’t helped..J-Lo – so boring, so phony, so nothing..The show was dead meat 5 years ago..Put a fork in it already.

  15. Kim says:

    People need time to know that this season is amazing . not like last season . Mariah and nicki killed the soul of the show . it takes time to heal . Jennifer is here to Rescue the show ♥

  16. Gil says:

    I thought it was a decent comeback. It looks like they got avoided more comedic auditions and had more borderline singers to show the judges giving substantive critiques. It seemed more business-like which was refreshing after the stream-of-consciousness and meandering that went on last season. Judge chemistry seems much better too, as Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. have a good blend of an unspoken wavelength between them and comedic timing. Letting the contestants audition with instruments is also a plus. I’m optimistic for the season.

  17. tressa says:

    They have to get back all the people who went away last disastrous season because of the disfunctional panel of a diva, a blond dumb rap artist, a music mogul, and one good country singer…It was so painful that people stopped watching in droves and wrote to AI and told them so…So it will take a little while..but remember it is 13 years that AI is on…the sparkle of something new is gone, but if they keep quality contestants, and good judging number one, they will get back all the people that left.

  18. Seeker Matt says:

    don’t they get that jennifer lopez’s fake, made-for-tv ‘personality’ is completely repulsive?
    and they destroy their credibility by effusively praising the most mediocre ‘talent’.

  19. Karen says:

    Last year I didn’t watch except for the first show! Taking Steven Tyler & Jennifer Lopez off wasn’t bad enough! Adding MCarey whom had absolutely no respect for the show & whatever that other person was certainly not a judge! She hurt the show with her idiotic nonsense Well that was a total Screw up! Hopefully this year you can redeem yourselves! Keith Urban is Awesome as well a Henry Connick Jr Jennifer Lopez & Ryan Seacrest as well! Happy to see you have the right panel!
    Good Luck Idol!!

  20. the fact that they had nikki minaj as a judge made me never watch this show again

  21. Larry Jorgensen says:

    Harry Connick finally brought some music knowledge to the show.
    And he added something new. Great addition!!

    • 2late2matter says:

      Simply decided this season NOT to begin watching the weekly show. It had its chance last year, and it’s the same every year!

    • Demeter says:

      I wish Jennifer Lopez would let Harry Connick, Jr. speak. She constantly cut him off while he was explaining something interesting.

      • Paganpink says:

        I agree completely! Connick is a very witty and obviously intelligent guy as he has shown as a mentor in the past. J Lo is all about herself and is just plain rude in interrupting others. All of them are better then the often high and borderline psychotic women they had on last year!

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