Fox’s “American Idol” showed it’s still capable of drawing a sizable audience as it kicked off its 15th and final season Wednesday, ruling as the No. 1-rated program on a night that saw ABC’s “Black-ish” look healthier without “Empire” competition while its “American Crime” delivered time-period improvement with a second-season premiere that had been available free online to viewers for weeks. Also of note, NBC’s “Chicago PD” closed its crossover-event storyline with a 14-month high, while CBS’ “People’s Choice Awards” suffered another big year-over-year drop.
According to preliminary national estimates from Nielsen, “American Idol” averaged a 2.9 rating/9 share in adults 18-49 and 10.9 million viewers overall from 8 to 10 p.m., within 9% of its year-ago debut score in the demo when it opened with an hourlong episode leading into “Empire.” “Idol” stayed above a 3 rating a few other times early in its 14th season, but otherwise faded down the stretch (finishing in May with a 1.7). The net is hoping to recapture the magic with a shorted “farewell season” that figures to take many trips down memory lane of a show once labeled by rival networks as “the Death Star” because of its unrelenting dominance for years.
“Idol” won its 8-10 p.m. time period across the board on Wednesday, besting runner-up ABC by 2 shares in teens 12-17, adults 18-34, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. Starting next week, it will lead into new drama “Second Chance.”
Elsewhere last night, ABC had a solid night with its comedy block, starting with “The Middle” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall) and “The Goldbergs” (2.1/7 in 18-49, 6.6 million viewers overall), which were about average opposite new laffer competition from CBS. The Alphabet shows saw nice gains on this night a year ago, but last night was at least able to hold at typical levels despite the arrival of “2 Broke Girls” in its new night and time at 8 (1.7/6 in 18-49, 6.3 million viewers overall) and the season premiere of “Mike & Molly” at 8:30 (1.6/5 in 18-49, 6.7 million viewers overall). The Eye comedy hour will air for five more weeks, with “Survivor” returning to its usual timeslot in late February.
Following “Goldbergs,” ABC saw a slight bump vs. prior episodes for “Modern Family” (2.7/9 in 18-49, 8.3 million viewers overall), which was the night’s No. 1 scripted series in adults 18-49; if it rises to a 2.8 as expected in the finals, it would match the show’s top rating since September. “Black-ish” (2.1/6 in 18-49, 6.3 million viewers overall) had the best result of the night for the network, rising to best-since-season premiere numbers and placing a solid second in demos to “American Idol” at 9:30.
Closing out the night, John Ridley’s anthology series “American Crime” (1.2/4 in 18-49, 4.7 million viewers overall) may have been down from its first-season premiere on a Thursday behind “Scandal” last year (2.0/7 in 18-49, 8.4 million), but it outdelivered its final seven episodes of its rookie season. It also matched the season premiere of “Nashville” in the timeslot (1.2) and was a big improvement over the country music-themed soap’s fall finale last month (0.8). Last night’s premiere episode was made available to online viewers via iTunes for the last three weeks.
Following the comedies on CBS, the “People’s Choice Awards” averaged a 1.3/4 in 18-49 and 6.0 million viewers overall. This is down sharply from last year’s 1.8/5 and 8.62 million and marks the second straight year of 20%-plus declines for the event.
At NBC, “The Mysteries of Laura” (1.1/4 in 18-49, 6.9 million viewers overall), matched its most recent telecast in mid-November, placing a distant fourth in 18-49 for its hour. The net spiked from there with “Law & Order: SVU” (1.8/5 in 18-49, 7.8 million viewers overall), which logged its second best rating since premiere week and was up 29% vs. its most recent original.
“Chicago PD” (1.9/6 in 18-49, 8.7 million viewers overall) surged 39% above its prior original in mid-November (1.4) to log its highest rating since November 2014 while drawing its second largest overall audience to date. With the conclusion of a storyline that began Tuesday on “Chicago Fire” and “Chicago Med,” “Chicago PD” has now finished No. 1 or tied for No. 1 in 18-49 vs. the time period’s regular ABC and CBS drama competition with its last 25 regular-slot originals.
For the night, the three-hour drama block shot up 23% vs. its average the last time it aired seven weeks ago (1.6 vs. 1.3).
CW aired repeats of Wednesday regulars “Arrow” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 1.1 million viewers overall) and “Supernatural” (0.3/1 in 18-49, 0.9 million viewers overall).