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Fox's 'American Idol' still rolling

January 13, 2010 | 12:26 pm
"American Idol" is still the death star.

Almost 30 million people tuned in to watch Tuesday night's two-hour season premiere of Fox's "American Idol." That is on par with what last season's first episode garnered.

DARNELL Fox executives, of course, said they were expecting lower numbers. Although "American Idol" is still the biggest show on television, ratings have cooled over the last several years. With judge Simon Cowell leaving after this season, there is concern at the network that the show will lose even more of its prowess.

If viewers tuned in last night expecting to hear Cowell explain his decision to leave the show and bring his British hit "The X Factor" to Fox in the fall of 2011, they were disappointed. Cowell is unlikely to say anything on the air about his move until the live "Idol" episodes start in February.

"I know it's only one night ... but this is really amazing," said Mike Darnell, Fox's president of alternative entertainment.

"'American Idol' in a different universe," he said.

Of course, "American Idol" is a huge machine now. A strong premiere, given the attention on Cowell, the departure of Paula Abdul and the arrival of Ellen DeGeneres, who will make her debut next month, is not that big a shock. The challenge will be maintaining that pace throughout the coming months.

Besides landing 29.9 million viewers, "American Idol" owned the night among adults ages 18-49, attracting 15.5 million in that coveted demographic group, which is also about even with a year ago. The show was up almost 10% among adults 18-34.

NBC and ABC appeared to take the biggest hit from "American Idol." CBS hung in a little better with "NCIS," which averaged 20.1 million viewers in the 8 p.m. hour, and "NCIS: Los Angeles" averaged 15.5 million viewers at 9 p.m.

"American Idol" wasn't the only show doing big numbers Tuesday night. NBC's "The Tonight Show" was up as well with viewers no doubt tuning in to see what host Conan O'Brien would say on the air regarding his situation. Earlier Tuesday, O'Brien issued a statement saying he was not interested in doing "The Tonight Show" if the network moved it to 12:05 a.m. from 11:35 p.m. to make room for Jay Leno's return from prime time to late night.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Mike Darnell. Credit: Fox Broadcasting
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