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Lindsey Vonn and Co. knock off 'American Idol'

February 18, 2010 |  9:40 am


Looks like the death star is no match for Lindsey Vonn.

For several years, rival network television executives have described Fox's "American Idol" as a death star that obliterates everything in its path. While "American Idol" is still the major force of broadcast television, Wednesday night NBC knocked it off its perch in both viewers and the coveted adults 18-49 demographic with its coverage of the Olympics. Maybe this will make the $250 million or so NBC parent General Electric Co. said it would eat on its Olympics coverage just a little easier to swallow.

This marks the first time in almost six years that "American Idol" didn't finish first in viewers and adults 18-49 since May 2004 when it lost to, yes, an episode of "Fear Factor."

It was bound to happen. America had a huge night in the Games Wednesday, winning six gold medals, including one for Vonn's gutsy downhill run and snowboarder Shaun White's daredevil maneuvers. Going head-to-head against "American Idol" in the 9-10 p.m. slot, NBC averaged 30.1 million viewers to Fox's 12.4 million. In the 18-49 race, NBC averaged a 9.0 rating to Fox's 6.9. Each rating point in that demographic represents 1.3 million viewers.

NBC was pretty stoked about the news. The headline on its release wasn't about Vonn or White or the other Americans who took home gold medals. Instead, it screamed, "Olympics beat Idol."

While this is a big accomplishment for NBC, it also points to the strength of "American Idol" in that it took what will likely be the biggest night of the 2010 Winter Olympics to knock the talent show out of first place for the first time in over half a decade. 

For the entire evening, NBC averaged 29.3 million viewers and an 8.9 rating in 18-49. Fox with 12.8 million viewers and a 4.5 rating. ABC and CBS laid down with reruns, and it showed. CBS had 6.9 million viewers and a 1.8 in 18-49 while ABC had 3.9 million viewers and a 1.5 in the demo. They are betting, probably wisely, that it is silly to waste new episodes against both "American Idol' and the Olympics.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: Lindsey Vonn. Credit: Jerry Lai-US Presswire.