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NBC, Fox each claim victory in Olympics vs. 'American Idol' ratings battle

February 26, 2010 | 10:33 am

NBC's coverage of the Winter Olympics grabbed the most viewers but Fox's "American Idol" did better in the key demographics in Thursday night's battle of singers vs. skaters and skiers.

Going head-to-head in the 8-9 p.m. hour, the Olympics averaged 19.2 million viewers while "American Idol" averaged 17.8 million viewers, according to Nielsen. But in the 18-49 demographic, "American Idol" averaged a 6.4 rating to NBC's 4.4 rating. Each rating point in that demographic equals 1.3 million viewers. This is the second time that the Olympics beat "American Idol" in total viewers. It has beaten it once in the 18-49 battlefield.

Both sides claimed victory in their ratings releases Friday morning. Fox trumpeted that it "dominated" the Olympics. NBC Universal Sports czar Dick Ebersol said, “I never thought we would have the good fortune to beat the incredibly well-produced and enduring phenomenon of 'American Idol' even once. But twice?" Ebersol added that NBC was "happy to rent Idol’s space for a few nights." 

For the night, NBC averaged 22.5 million viewers and a 5.8 rating in adults 18-49. Fox was second with 12.8 million viewers and a 4.9 rating. CBS and was third with 9.6 million viewers and a 2.5 rating. ABC averaged just 4 million viewers and only a 1.2 rating in the demo. The CW attracted 1.6 million viewers and a 0.7 rating in adults 18-49.

-- Joe Flint

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