Update: 'American Idol' premiere ratings slip 10% as young viewers bail
The addition of a fourth judge didn't help "American Idol's" ratings. The show's two-hour Season 8 premiere on Fox Tuesday gathered 30.1 million total viewers - still a very impressive figure, but a decline of 10% compared with last year's premiere and the lowest "Idol" season launch since Jan. 2004.
With new judge Kara DioGuardi added to the familiar judging trio of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, "Idol" averaged an 11.6 rating/28 share in the adults aged 18-49 demographic, handing Fox an easy victory for the night, according to early data from Nielsen Media Research.
Those are still numbers any competitor would kill for. But the "Idol" dropoff was particularly steep among young people, which have traditionally furnished the show's base. Last year, "Idol" opened with a 13.8/32 in 18-49, translating into a 16% dip in that ad-friendly category. And the program lost one-quarter of its audience among adults aged 18-34.
Given that young people are often the first to bail on a program as it loses steam, these trends could mean that "Idol" is on the cusp of an inevitable ratings erosion this season and beyond. But then, it's far too early to write off a show like "Idol," which showed astonishing durability over its first seven seasons.
Meanwhile, competitors held up as best they could. CBS' older-skewing lineup was only minimally affected, with "NCIS" averaging 18.5 million viewers and "The Mentalist" managing 18.1 million. But CW's "90210," whose youthful audience overlaps with that of "Idol," got hammered, with a 1.9 rating in its core adults aged 18-34 demographic, a 34% plunge compared with its prior season-to-date average. However, CW's youth soap tends to be among the most frequently recorded series on DVRs, so its numbers may rise significantly once viewer playbacks over the next few days are taken into account. Overall, "90210" averaged 2.2 million with a 1.1 rating/3 share in 18-49.
-- Scott Collins
(Photo courtesy Fox)