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'American Idol's eighth season debuts huge, but ratings dip again


By Christopher Rocchio, 01/14/2009 

Tuesday night's premiere of American Idol's eighth season was the highest-rated telecast of the 2008-2009 television season, however the show's season premiere ratings still dipped for the second consecutive year.

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American Idol's two-hour premiere averaged 30.1 million total viewers and scored an 11.6/28 rating/share in the Adults 18-49 demographic and a 9.7/26 rating/share among Adults 18-34, according to Nielsen Media Research preliminary fast national ratings figures -- a performance that easily makes it the highest-rated entertainment telecast of the 2008-2009 television season.

However similar to most other broadcast network shows that have returned this season, those numbers were down from last January's broadcast of Idol's seventh-season premiere, which averaged 33.2 million total viewers and scored a 13.8/32 rating/share in the Adults 18-49 demographic and a 12.9/33 rating/share among Adults 18-34.

Tuesday night's debut marked the second consecutive year that Idol's premiere dipped a bit from its previous season, as the show's monster sixth-season premiere in January 2007 averaged 37.3 million total viewers, a 15.7/36 rating/share among Adults 18-49 and a 14.8/38 rating/share among Adults 18-34.

Idol's eighth-season premiere also fell short of the ratings numbers that the show's fourth (33.5 million viewers and a 14.0/33 in Adults 18-49) and fifth season (35.5 million viewers and a 15.3/34 in Adults 18-49) premieres had delivered, making it the least-watched premiere since the show's third-season debut in January 2004.

Despite the prior season decline, Tuesday night's two-hour Idol 8 premiere still managed to hammer the combined total programming of the four other major network broadcasters in the 8-10PM ET/PT time period -- out-delivering CBS, ABC, NBC and The CW's combined ratings by 17% among Adults 18-49 (an 11.6/28 rating/share vs. a combined 9.9/24 rating/share); 23% among Adults 18-34 (a 9.7/26 rating/share vs. a combined 7.9/21 rating/share); and 145% among Teens (a 10.8/33 rating/share vs. a combined 4.4/14 rating/share).

In addition, it also outperformed CBS, ABC, NBC and The CW by 85% among total viewers (30.1 million vs. a combined 16.3 million).

As the highest-rated entertainment telecast of the 2008-2009 season on any network, Idol's eighth-season premiere broadcast also blew away the season's previously top-rated programs among Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, Teens and total viewers.

Idol beat Grey's Anatomy's September fifth-season premiere (the season's previously top-ranked telecast among the Adults 18-49 and Adults 18-34 demographics) by 57% among Adults 18-49 (11.6/28 rating/share vs. 7.4/18 rating/share) and by 24% among Adults 18-34 (9.7/26 rating/share vs. 7.8/21 rating/share).

Idol's debut also beat CSI's October ninth-season premiere (the season's previously top-ranked telecast among total viewers) by 28% among total viewers (30.1 million vs. 23.5 million); and it crushed Family Guy's November 2 episode (the season's previously top-ranked telecast among Teens) by 108% among Teens (10.8/33 rating/share vs. 5.2/15 rating/share).

In addition, Idol's premiere also helped Fox deliver the highest-rated night of the 2008-2009 season -- including both entertainment and sports programming -- among Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, Teens and total viewers.

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