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'World Idol' draws OK ratings in US but mixed ratings throughout the world


By Wade Paulsen, 12/30/2003 

Was World Idol a ratings smash? Or was it a flop? The answer depends upon the country from which you were watching.

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In the U.S., according to Hollywood Reporter, about 6.5 million viewers tuned into Fox on Christmas Day to see World Idol. Although the number was disappointing overall, Fox placed first for the night among the adults 18-34 demographic and second for the night among adults 18-49. CBS led the night with repeats of the Jerry Bruckheimer dramas Cold Case, CSI and Without a Trace, ABC was third with NBA basketball games, and NBC ended up with a rare fourth-place finish on a Thursday night despite airing an all-repeat lineup of its usual powerhouses. Thus, it appears World Idol primarily suffered from a dearth of viewers on Christmas Day in the US.

In Australia, where the broadcast aired on Channel Ten on the day AFTER Christmas, called "Boxing Day," World Idol performed phenomenally, according to The Age. It drew about 2.4 million viewers, which would put it among the top 10 programs for the year ... except for the fact that the Australian TV ratings "year" ended at the end of November.

However, in the UK, World Idol on ITV was hammered by BBC1's Christmas Day programming, according to the (Manchester) Guardian. It drew 4.5 million viewers, but even the Queen's speech to the Commonwealth drew two million more (placing 8th for the night) ... and a celebrity edition of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? on ITV also drew almost two million more (placing 10th).

What accounts for the huge difference in audience? One factor might be how recently the country's contestant was crowned as an Idol; Guy Sebastian from Australia just won the title a month ago, while Will Young from the U.K. won about two years ago and Kelly Clarkson from the U.S. won about 15 months ago. Another factor might be the different nights, with Boxing Day representing a better TV night than Christmas Day, at least for non-traditional fare such as World Idol. That explanation, though, fails to account for the strong performance of World Idol on Canada's CTV, where it aired in the same time slot as in the US and drew 1.9 million viewers -- more than double the #2 show on Christmas Day.

We tend to wonder if the constricted, artificial format might not have played a role in the poor UK ratings and the lower-than-hoped US ratings as well. Several of the contestants clearly didn't belong on the world stage -- at least, not as musical performers (Poland's Alex, for example, came across as strikingly charismatic although musically outclassed) -- and we can't help but wonder whether more people would have tuned in to watch artists such as Norway's Kurt Nilsen and Belgium's Peter Evrard going head-to-head with the US's Kelly Clarkson and Canada's Ryan Malcolm if they hadn't had to sit through people like Germany's Alexander Klaws and South Africa's Heinz Winkler first.

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