American Idol's return received a tremendous reception from viewers last night, with 37.3 million sets of eyes watching. If ratings results from the premiere are any indication, the Fox mega-hit ratings juggernaut should continue to steamroll the competition during its sixth season.

Tuesday night's two-hour sixth season debut of Fox's sixth American Idol edition delivered the show's best premiere ratings ever.  Sound familiar?  It should, as unlikely as it might seem, the sixth season premiere managed to continue Idol's nearly unprecedented ratings growth over previous seasons.  Compared to last year's January 17 fifth season premiere, Idol 6 showed improvements across the board, up 3% among Adults 18-49, 1% among Adults 18-34, 4% with Teens and 5% in total viewers. 

In addition to drawing the show's best ever debut numbers among overall viewwers, Idol's premiere produced the series' highest premiere numbers ever in the Adults 18-49 demographic with a 15.7/36 rating/share, as well as in the Adults 18-34 demographic with a 14.8/38 rating/share, according to Nielsen's preliminary Fast National ratings.  Overall, the premiere ranked as the series second highest rated telecast ever among Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34 and total viewers, behind only American Idol 2's finale on May 21, 2003 (and Idol 6's debut didn't even have any appearances by Clay Aiken or Reuben Studdard!).

Last night's two-hour Idol premiere hammered the total programming of the four other network broadcasters in the 8PM to 10PM ET/PT time period, outdelivering CBS, ABC, NBC and The CW's combined ratings by 78% among Adults 18-49 (a 15.7/36 rating/share vs. a combined 8.8/21 rating/share), 135% among Adults 18-34 (14.8/38 vs. 6.3/16) and 306% among Teens (14.2/39 vs. 3.5/11), as well as by 23% in combined viewership (37.3 million vs. 30.4 million).  The premiere also managed to increase its viewership significantly throughout the two hour broadcast, going from just over 32 million in its first half hour to just under 41.5 million in its last.

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Last night's American Idol was also the highest-rated primetime telecast of the 2006/2007 season on any network among Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, total viewers and Teens. And it didn't just edge the previously top-rated programs for the title, it blew them away.  Idol beat Grey's Anatomy's September 2006 premiere (the season's previously top-ranked telecast among among the Adults 18-49 and Adults 18-34 demographics) by 43% among Adults 18-49 (15.7/36 vs. 11/26) and by 38% among Adults 18-34 (14.8/38 vs. 10.7/28). Idol also crushed Desperate Housewives' September 2006 premiere (the season's previously top-ranked telecast among among Teens) by 125% among Teens (14.2/39 vs. 6.8/18). Among total viewers, Idol's premiere beat last week's Fox broadcast of the BCS Championship Game by 30% (37.3 million vs. 28.8 million).

Given the new season's huge debut, last night's Idol 6 premiere was destined to set some all-time Fox records as well. It was the highest rated season premiere ever in total viewers on the network, and also tied the November 2, 1997 premiere of The X-Files as Fox's highest rated season premiere ever among Adults 18-49.  The premiere of Idol 6 also gave Fox its highest rated night ever with entertainment programming among total viewers, as well as its second highest rated night among Adults 18-49 behind only its Joe Millionaire finale on February 17, 2003  (Although Fox broadcast two hours of Idol programming on the night of the show's May 21, 2003 second season finale, the broadcast technically consisted of two one-hour episodes.  Only the final hour averaged more viewers than Tuesday night's two-hour Idol 6 premiere, and overall the night averaged fewer total viewers than Tuesday night's two-hour Idol 6 episode.)

Clearly, ABC knew what it was doing when it decided to move Lost and Dancing with the Stars' upcoming fourth edition out of the way of Idol's sixth season return.
About The Author: Christopher Rocchio
Christopher Rocchio is an entertainment reporter for Reality TV World and has covered the reality TV genre for several years.