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Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 01/19/2012

Singing show fatigue? ‘American Idol’ premiere ratings decline from last season


Colton Dixon and Schyler Dixon on the “Idol” premiere. (Michael Becker - Fox)

Has singing-show fatigue clipped the wings of Fox’s golden goose?

About 22 million people watched the Season One-One (as Randy Jackson kept calling it) debut of “American Idol” on Wednesday night — about 17 percent, or about 5 million viewers, shy of last January’s season kickoff.

(It’s also about 7 million fewer people than tuned in to see Charlie Sheen killed off and Ashton Kutcher introduced on this season’s debut of the rebooted “Two and a Half Men.”)

Among the 18- to 49-year-old viewers the broadcast networks target, “Idol’s” 11th-season debut was down 24 percent year to year. But it still managed to out-rate all of the other major broadcast networks combined by 6 percent from 8 to 10 p.m. Wednesday.

What other TV show can get the stuffing kicked out of it and still beat the combined competition?

And let’s not forget all those “Idol” Is So Over reports that were being readied last January when the show’s Season 10 debut — featuring the unveiling of judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez — attracted 4 million fewer people than had the debut of the show’s ninth, and Simon Cowell’s last, season.

But, after that opening stumble, “Idol’s” 10th season averaged 4 percent more viewers than Season 9. And, among viewers 18 to 49, the Holy Grail of Madison Avenue, that 10th season overall dipped a mere 3 percent compared with the ninth season. That was a better year-to-year showing than “Idol” had enjoyed for several seasons.

Still, there’s no denying that Fox suits will be watching closely to see how America’s most popular TV series does this edition. It’s the first season in which the network has just finished airing a similar singing competition, Cowell’s “The X Factor,” which wrapped up its first season about a month ago.

Fox execs had deliberately resisted the urge to run a second round of “Idol” in the fall — as, for instance, ABC does with “Dancing With the Stars” — for fear that viewers would suffer singing-show overload.

But when Cowell started shopping “The X Factor” around in the United States, Fox decided it would be better to keep him in their bed than to let him hop into a competitor’s crib.

NBC, in turn, went out and grabbed yet another international singing-competition franchise, “The Voice,” and slapped it on the air last spring. For comparison’s sake, the first season of “The Voice” premiered in April to an audience of just under 12 million. And when “The X Factor” opened in September, 12.5 million people tuned in.

Wednesday night marked the start of the second decade for “American Idol.” And, a few seconds into the show, we figured out how it’s going position itself for these troubled times, what with “The X Factor” and “The Voice” nipping at the franchise. We saw a parade of “Idol” hopefuls performing on home videos back when they were tiny tots, with quotes such as “This is what I’ve been waiting to do my whole life!” Another kid said, “It’s like an icon of American society.”

“American Idol”: steady, reliable, always there — an institution, not like that pack of new guys. “American Idol”: the Mitt Romney of Singing Competitions!

By  |  06:00 PM ET, 01/19/2012

 
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