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Wednesday 'Idol' scores biggest numbers yet, draws over 29.4 million viewers


By Reality TV World staff, 01/23/2004 

FOX three-night American Idol premiere closed out it ratings rampage on Wednesday with its highs numbers yet -- leaving other broadcasters hoping that the program's ratings will somewhat subside as the show begins to settle into its regular broadcast slots, but already shuffling their schedules to get out of the 800-pound gorilla's way.

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According to Nielsen Media Research national ratings, Wednesday's special 8-9 PM ET Idol broadcast averaged a 12.7 rating/32 share in the Adults 18-49 demographic and 29.43 million viewers overall -- numbers that were even better than the already enormous numbers that it drew on Monday and Tuesday.

Proving just how dominant the program was, Wednesday's 12.7/32 Adults 18-49 score was better than that of the five other major broadcast networks combined and the millions of viewers that the broadcast left in its wake were enough to lift FOX's 9 PM ET telecast of The O.C. to series-high ratings.

Daily Variety notes that for its first three nights this season, American Idol has averaged a 12.7/31 in Adults 18-49 -- numbers that give it three of the Top 4 highest entertainment scores of the entire 2003-2004 television season (a recent Friends broadcast claims the fourth slot.)

Executives of other network executives who were hoping that, similar to other established reality hits, Idol might have peaked during last year's second edition of the series have clear reason to be concerned as, according to the Variety report, this edition's first three installments are up over last year's opening episodes by 14% in total viewers (29.0 million vs. 25.4 million) and 6% in 18-49 rating (12.7 vs. 12.0).

For their part, NBC officials wasted little time in making their concerns public -- announcing that their new The Apprentice series, which got crushed in its first head-to-head matchup with Idol on Wednesday, would move to Thursdays at 9 PM ET and take its chances versus CBS' CSI, previously the season's top-ranked television program, rather than face any more Idol showdowns.

Meanwhile, other industry executives are said to be monitoring the situation and wondering if this year's Idol season will follow last year's pattern of a huge opening week followed by a 15-20% ratings decline and a gradual build back up to a monster finale, or whether this year's season will take the program to new heights and somehow maintain these enormous ratings levels.


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