The seventh-season premiere of Fox’s “American Idol” may have been its lowest-rated in four years, but Fox executives say they are pleased with its performance.
“I woke up thrilled this morning,” said Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment at Fox. “It’s unbelievable how big this show is in its seventh season. If you had told me in season two this would be the biggest thing in television by 12 million viewers in its seventh year, I would have said you were crazy.”
“Idol” fell from last year’s series-high premiere perch, yet once again was a ratings titan that easily blew away the competition Tuesday night, as well as all other network premieres from earlier this season.
“Idol” received a 13.8 rating among adults 18 to 49, according to national Nielsen data. That’s down 13% from last year’s 15.8 and down 10% from 2006’s 15.3. Among total viewers, “Idol” was seen by an average of 33.2 million, down 11% from last year.
Both the demo and the total-viewer figures are the lowest Tuesday-night "Idol" premiere standings since 2004.
“In the history of American television there has never been a show this dominant that the disparity between it and the next show is like 55%,” Darnell said. “I honestly believe this is the last of its kind. I don’t believe with DVRs and Internet and video games that you will ever see another show like this.”
Fox has devoted just as many resources to promoting “Idol” this season as in recent years, said Joe Earley, senior VP of marketing and communications at Fox. In fact, “Idol” received more on-air promotion than usual, since “24” was postponed due to the writers strike.
“The media spend was the same as it has been and we had more on-air weight,” Earley said. “That ‘24’ time was divided between ‘Idol’ and ‘Sarah Connor.’”
“Idol” is expected to dip slightly in its second airing tonight, as is the usual “Idol” pattern.
Contrary to last season, when the judges took critical knocks for some vicious mocking of the contestants in the opening rounds, this time Simon Cowell was on his best behavior. One rejected contestant was even given a group hug by the judges.
“The King of Mean was replaced by the Prince of Nice,” the NY Post declared.
"Why are the judges so well behaved?” asked the Washington Post's Lisa de Moraes.
Other early reviews:
Daily News: “If last night's 'Idol' kickoff wasn't a show for the memory book, it did nothing to discourage tens of millions of fans from signing up for the new ride.”
EW: “A more balanced talent-to-train-wreck ratio in the audition rounds.”
Among last night’s network competitors, Fox’s “Death Star” zapped about 30% week-to-week from NBC’s “The Biggest Loser: Couples.” (3.0).
NBC came in second place for the evening, averaging a 3.5 rating compared to Fox’s 13.8. At 10 p.m., NBC's “Law & Order: SVU” (4.6) won the hour.
In third place, CBS’ “NCIS” also held up solidly (3.0), though part two of its movie “Comanche Moon” dropped sharply from Sunday night’s premiere (2.4).
Fourth-place ABC scheduled two episodes of “Just for Laughs” (both 1.2), “According to Jim” (1.2), a “Carpoolers” repeat (0.9) and “Boston Legal” (2.0).
The CW had a "Reaper" repeat (0.6) and "One Tree Hill" (1.3), the latter down 19% against "Idol," yet besting ABC for the hour.