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Retooled 'American Idol' slips 13% to lowest ratings since Season 1

January 20, 2011 |  9:38 am

Simon Cowell's barbs could hurt, but apparently not as much as having him leave the show.

A retooled "American Idol" opened its 10th season Wednesday without its resident mean judge -- and to its worst numbers since its first season back in the summer of 2002, down 13% from last year. An average of 26.1 million tuned in to the two-hour premiere that introduced new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, along with Randy Jackson, the sole remaining original judge. "Idol" also opened on a new night, rather than Tuesdays as in the past.

Among the key demographic of adults aged 18 to 49, "Idol" was down 18%.

Fox, which went to unusual lengths to manage expectations for TV's No. 1 show without its big star judge, said the losses were in line with expectations. The record for an "Idol" opener is the Season 6 premiere, which drew 37.4 million.

Rival networks immediately seized on the numbers as evidence that the "Idol" phenomenon is waning. ABC rushed out a release pointing out that its lineup had scored big year-to-year gains against the Fox show.

What did you think of the premiere and the new judges?

--Scott Collins

Photo: Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson are the judges for "American Idol's" Season 10. Credit: Michael Becker/Fox.