'American Idol' premiere ratings: Biggest drop yet

(Michael Becker, Fox)

Well, it’s not like anybody expected them to go up.

The season premiere of the pivotal 10th season of Fox’s American Idol fell in the ratings compared to last year.

Idol drew 26.2 million viewers, down 13 percent. Among the key adult demo, the show earned a 9.7 adults 18-49 rating, down 18 percent from 2010’s opener. The largest declines were among younger viewers, with teen viewership down 28 percent.

The 18-49 drop represents the lowest-rated premiere for Idol since its 2002 summer debut, and the biggest drop ever for the show between seasons.

Either way, the figures are below Fox’s panic line. Falling is fine, goes the mantra, as long as it’s not too big of a plunge — say, more than 20 percent.

This morning, Fox insiders say they’re relieved, noting reviews have been positive, fans seem to have embraced the new judges and the show went head-to-head with ABC’s Modern Family and doubled its rating — all despite losing Cowell.

The biggest test will come on Idol‘s new night, Thursday, when the reality series will face steeper competition and audiences should give the network a greater sense of whether they’re digging the new judges panel. More analysis and ratings after the jump…

But in one good sign from last night, the rating grew throughout last night’s two-hour telecast.

In another: EW’s recap says Steven Tyler was “a marvel.” CBS agrees he’s the “early fan favorite.” New judges, same tune says Chicago Tribune.

Idol utterly crushed Paula Abdul’s struggling CBS series Live to Dance (5.3 million, 1.0). But ABC’s Modern Family (11.1 million, 4.6) held up fine under the Idol pressure (here’s a clip of that walking-in-on-the-parents-having-sex scene). The second episode of ABC’s Off the Map (7.8 million, 2.1) slipped a bit from its lackluster premiere despite airing twice last week. The return of NBC’s Chase (4.3 million, 1.0) tanked. CBS tried out Blue Bloods (12.2 million, 2.0) at 10 p.m. and the show improved 17% on its Friday average.

Here’s the Idol premiere night audience over the past nine seasons:

Comments (376 total) Add your comment
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  • tony

    No surprise, half of the viewers were Simon groupies

    • Jethro

      Tried to watch it, but found it very difficult to watch when the camera was on Steve.

      What did he do with his face, a chem peel, a facelift, he did something, it is difficult to watch.

      I’m sorry fans of this show, we shouldn’t be judging him for his appearance, but there is just something odd about the way he looks now!

      • Danielle

        I believe it’s called “looking old” Jethro! The man is 62 years old. Give him a break, he can’t be young and fresh-faced forever!

      • Sugar

        I agree, I turned Idol off 45 minutes into it. Judges were trying to hard and I also find Tylers looks hard to take. So sad, I have been a viewer for 9 years.

      • olivia

        I thought Steven looked great! Wonder what YOU look like! JLO is beautiful! They are both very very talented.

      • Anna

        I have to agree, good grief that man is UGLY…….

      • Dave

        News falsh: he has always looked kind of wierd and now he is 62 still dressing & acting like he is 28. That is not a knock; it works for him. He is the epitome of Rock Star. Most the younger rockers on the scene now can only wish to be half as good as he was when he was 50.

      • Rick

        ST has always been odd looking, but is the so far the best of the current panel of judges. Randy is still the same, and so far J-lo makes Paula look harsh as they made it look like she couldn’t say anything remotely negative about any auditionee. OF course that could be editing and she may have gotten used to saying no after awhile… I wasn’t expecting anyone to completely hammer anyone as I heard they were trying to minimize the train wrecks and show off more of the real talent.

      • wow

        Well that sucks. But the good news is, it said the largest declines were among 16 year old teeny boppers. Less teens voting, I guess we might get a better winner this year then.;)

      • ag

        I thought he looked great. 60+ and still sexy as all get-out…

      • MasterChief

        It because he is really Nancy Pelosi. You never see the two of them together

      • Jeff

        Really WOW – you think teens picked David Cook, Kris Allen or Lee Dewyze? Look at the demographics of the viewers watching the show. It’s all those cougar women who watch the show and vote. Why do you think they fail after AI – because teens didn’t pick them.

      • Joe

        So right. I am not a fan of American Idol. I watched it before maybe minutes at a time but never thrilled. My life is too hectic to sit and wish I was there. (Sorry no talent here) I thought I’d take a peek and see how they could replace Simopn. But holy cow. He needs the proverbial paper bag and hand one out to the tv audience in case his falls off”. I thought it was a trailer for Saw, the movie.
        The years have not been good to him, nor the drugs I’m sure. I work with old men (me included at 55yo. The guys I work with are 60 and 76 and 78 yo. The guys I work with look teenaged compared to this guy.

      • TommyMun

        I couldn’t watch the show because of Steve’s face…I don’t know what it is, but I just am not a fan of his. I was a big fan of Idol, but I guess it’s in the rearview mirror now.

        I’m not happy with the new judges at all.

      • e

        Steven looks great. You just don’t like his rocker style.

      • Dr

        I am not watching this year specifically, directly, and exactly because of Steve.

      • soldiers_wife

        Why not judge on appearance, afterall.. J-LO told one contestant she needed to spruce up HER appearance, and Tyler agreed.. so fair’s fair. ;o)

      • b

        Shut up! Steven looks great. He’s a rocker that has style and charm.

      • Thursday

        You know what I just read though…The Los Angeles Times wrote American Idol gives Fox its best Thursday ratings in 16 years. The last time Fox had that high of ratings on a Thurs was in 1995.

    • kellybelly

      Good show. Liked Tyler and Lopez. Saw more talented auditions than bad — which is a massive improvement. 26 million is nothing to be upset about. Maybe Idol has reached its “settling” in numbers. Also, people have stopped liking the auditions, because of the constant train wrecks of the seasons past. So, maybe as buzz builds more will check it out. But I would say, Fox is off to a good start, and shouldn’t worry. Wait until Hollywood week — then check the ratings.

      • chris

        most people i know watch the show for the trainwrecks, not the successes haha

      • Lisa London

        God knows I do!!

      • Dane

        Personally, I don’t watch idol until Hollywood at the earliest. A lot of people I know do the same now. The auditions have gotten kinda stale.

    • Tom

      I really really can not wait for this show to just end. It ruins everything else on TV with very extistence. Everyone was so afraid to put new things against it that its ratings stayed High just because of that

    • Normalman

      I casually watch Idol, I’m certainly not going to watch it over the Middle and Modern Family. It was better on Tuesday when nothing’s on.

      • Alienate

        What century do you live in? I love both AI and Modern Family. I use a device called a DVR. Get one and stop whining.

    • chabala kasonde

      Without Simon the whole American Idol is dead, its not weathy watching any more.

      • notNeeded

        its not wealthy? don’t you mean worth ? those words aren’t interchangeable, and wealthy makes no since here.

      • kcotulla

        Not worth watching for you, but worth commenting.? Move on and watch something else.

      • intpolice

        Can you not read? Chabala said “weathy” not wealthy. Learn to read before you start criticizing.

      • JMM

        I’m going to guess autocorrect had something to do with that.

      • Clark

        “Makes no since here” is a phrase that makes no sense anywhere in the English language. “Since” and “sense” are not interchangeable.

      • Suncatcher

        I’m gonna guess that you didn’t even watch a minute of AI this week. Come back and post when you do.

    • Amy

      How long until XFactor debuts? Sorry, I need Simon.

    • Michael

      People were Simon Cowell groupies because he is entertaining. Randy Moss is so drab.

      • Scroobles

        Randy Moss isn’t drab. He’s a great football player. Haha! Nerd.

      • Jules


    • kip

      So far it has been very, very Boring.S.T. shows off way to much.If it does~nt get better, I`ll will stop watching.

  • Sally

    26 million is still way more then most programs bring in. I actually enjoyed the new judges more then I thought I would.

    • Daniel

      “How many paint chips did you eat as a child?” Loving Tyler already. He’s what Ellen should have been: funny and honest.

      • Rob


        Just to let you know, Ellen was NOT present at the audition process for last season. She joined when they hit Hollywood. I’m sure Ellen would have come up with some zingers if she was there, as Steven WAS.

      • Dawn Kopp

        I thought the pain chips comment from Steven Tyler was so hilarious!

      • olivia

        I laughed my butt off at the paint chip comment!

      • ej

        Really Rob-tone it down buddy! AND the caps to show your outrage is very childish. He didn’t even say she was there at this point last year-I think he just meant overall. Maybe you should read things twice before getting SO!;) upset

      • Mel

        The paint chips quote was funny, but to be fair, it’s a quote from Tommy Boy not Steven Tyler’s own sparkling wit.

      • candacetx

        lovin Steve Tyler. I didnt like the idea of a rock legend selling his soul on idol… but you can tell he is a serious musician and is really wanting to discover new talent. At least w/Stephen onboard he will be looking for talent ‘outside the box’.

      • argo


        The paint chips comment/quote is lot older than Tommy Boy.

      • Semifan

        Ugly, quick wit, expert in talent great synergy with other judges. Finally, we get judges that that are relevant. Get over those weird lips and listen to what he says. He knows what he’s talking about.

    • Jennifer

      I enjoyed the new judges too! Jennifer was sweet and Steven Tyler was hilarious! I loved it.

    • debi

      exactly!!! i watched it with an open mind & loved tyler! he stole the show…singing & playing along with the auditioners was so natural & adorable. i appreciated randy’s more serious candor too…in the past the joking amongst the table was distracting. thought i’d miss simon-but no!

    • anon-i-mouse

      I really liked the new judges more than I thought I would, too. I don’t miss Simon in the least.

      I really don’t like these auditions shows, but I’m glad that there were fewer “awful” people on. I’ll likely tune out until Hollywood week.

  • Zakry

    Sally, you took the words right out of my mouth. Tony, your math doesn’t make sense. Think about it.

  • Zakry

    Meant to add that this is gonna mean people are gonna say “blah blah sucks without Simon blah blah not watching blah blah *insert purile uninformed opinion here*

    There are shows that would kill for 26 million! Kill!

  • MWC

    Ooooo…someone at EW learned how to graph. Or they started an employee exchange program with USA Today.

    • Cindi

      *That* made me laugh!

    • d-man

      Anyone else notice the guy with the pit stain in the graph! lol

  • ashley

    no surprise to me. i didn’t watch a) the show has really gone downhill the past year and b) no Simon. I know people hated him but when he gave a positive critique, it actually MEANT something. Not like when jackson said…well, anything.

    • anon-i-mouse

      People wanted to please Simon because he was nearly impossible to please. It didn’t mean he knew what he was talking about. (Randy is worthless, though).

  • claudenorth

    Ratings for network shows are decreasing pretty much across the board. The real measure is how AI’s ratings will compare to those of other shows. On the other hand, nothing lasts forever, and this is AI’s tenth season.

    • AK

      But isn’t it interesting that the biggest decreases are among teens and other young viewers. It’s just not the same “hip” show it once was.

  • BJohnson

    I planned on catching some of it, then Modern Family clashed with the beginning, then afterwards, I found something else. I mean, these episodes are the kind of wierd episodes. I get more into when they are in Hollywood and watch through to the finale. Really now the main reason I watch is because I need to get ready for the return of Idolatry!!!

    • Cait

      Hate to burst your bubble, but unless Michael Slezak is doing Idolatry on his new website, you won’t be watching it on EW.

      • Kathy

        He is coing it on tvline.com

  • JP

    It went down b/c last season was such a bust and a completely forgettable idol was crowned — and the year before probably would have been up except so many were disillusioned by Adam Lambert’s loss as I was — Usually I don’t pick up religiously until the top 20 or so, but this was one of the best audition round shows I’ve seen…more potential and less shrillity.

    • jay

      Ohmygosh, I can’t believe people are still whining about that! AL got every advantage even though he didn’t win. He has really milked that “Oh, the world was so unfair to me b/c I’m gay” thing to the hilt.

      • ravengirl

        Who’s whining? It’s just a fact: Adam Lambert, as talented and amazing as he is, still lost to someone whose name I barely can remember. For many of us, it showed how either questionable the vote-counting is or how narrow-minded too many American voters are. Either way, it turned off a large number of folks from the show, who no longer saw it as relevant or believable. You also blame the wrong person for all of this: Adam Lambert got “every advantage” as you say because he knew how to present himself and he has genuine talent. He never once milked the “gay/unfair” thing. He was most cordial in defeat and in fact never considered coming in second defeat. Idol opened the door for him, gave him the chance and he took it. That’s all he ever hoped for from the show. As we can see two seasons later, he’s done pretty damn well.

      • DJH

        Sounds like he was certainly more cordial (and intelligent) than you chastising ‘narrow minded American voters’. How idiotic a comment!

    • Zakry

      See my point about “purile uninformed opinions.” Adam Lambert didn’t win, but he’s clearly the champ on the record charts which is really what matters. Anyone who gets so upset that their favorite didn’t win that they can’t bear to watch the show anymore should be seeking counseling, not commenting in a forum.

    • JD

      Kris Allen
      I wasn’t disillusioned by Adam’s loss. I didn’t like him and thought he deserved to lose. America Voted….. and he lost.

      • Allan Webb

        Arkansas voted.

  • Allie

    Despite the media lovefest that has been happening surrounding Idol’s new judging panel for the past 2 months, I was still surprised to hear people I know say that Idol doesn’t start until February. So…..there’s always the possibility that people actually just didn’t know that it was on…..

    • Candacetx

      Happened to me! literally- i didnt know it was on. When I switched on the tv and there were only 10mins left, I was crushed. Thankfully, I still had it set from last season on DVR so it was recorded. I don’t think there was enough promotion of the start date.

      • ZoiMom

        Exactly. I was channel surfing and found it. I would have been disappointed to have missed it.
        I agree it didn’t seem as promoted as it has in the past.

    • john

      ewwww. Lambert who? The fame ho? Whenever I hear the name, I wanna puke. The worst american idol who completely messes up the image of american idol.

      • Anonymous

        At least he’s not as boring as Kris what’s his name…

  • Jay

    I Loved the new judges!! Steven Tyler was brilliant!!! I believe Asian people loved AI season 10 the BEST!!

    • Grumpster

      ??? Loved???? Asian People??? What’s that all about and where’d you get those statistics?

    • Jody

      You have some sort of proof to back up your stupid statment?

    • Lynn

      Loved the show. It was one of the best. The judges are just fab & they all jell together well. This is going to be a fantastic year. The OLD judges will NOT be missed for sure. Loved the way Steven & Jennifer handled themselves. This is the best yet. Can’t wait for each week to come. great job FOX

  • Grumpster

    Still people who I can’t believe are on here that SOMEWHERE along the line, a parent, friend, or other person didn’t tell them they totally stink at singing. The kid in the green plaid shirt (boy scout)…what a buffoon.

  • Jay

    Bring on the X Factor.

    • Andre

      Indeed! Get ‘em to audition in front of an audience – either they’re ready to be a star or they need to stay in their basement practicing in front of a mirror.

  • Judy Coenen

    Idol’s new judges were absolutely fabulous. Steven Tyler is amazing, and J Lo was completely refreshing, positive, and genuine. My husband both agree is it very refreshing with the 2 new judges (which we didn’t expect). It is going to be a great year.

    • LOL

      Pull the plug on this crap.

    • candacetx

      I agree Judy. I got your back on this one.

    • Steven f

      I agree 100 %!

  • Barry

    Where the hell is “Human Target”?

    • ken

      Human Target moved to Fridays

      • Ardi stockmoe

        I miss Paula but I like Tyler. Not Jennifer! I’ve watched

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