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'Idol' viewership down as Cowell nears finale

With ratings giant "American Idol" showing signs of weakness, "Dancing With the Stars" is becoming the primetime reality show power of network television.

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The Associated Press
Tuesday, May 4, 2010; 4:30 PM

NEW YORK -- The Simon Cowell era of "American Idol" is sputtering to a close on Fox.

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Viewership of the yearly contest that has dominated television for much of the past decade is off. The 19.4 million people who watched last Tuesday represented a 17 percent decline from the same week in 2009, the Nielsen Co. said. Wednesday's tally was off 10 percent.

It's pulling "Idol" back to the pack. The two airings were still the second- and third-most popular prime-time programs last week, but ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" was No. 1.

The caustic Cowell, "American Idol's" most dominant personality, announced in January this would be his final season. He's doing it without his frequent foil, Paula Abdul, who was replaced by Ellen Degeneres.

Meanwhile, it appears CBS' "60 Minutes" had a "Conan bump" in the ratings, a trend that TBS can only hope continues. Nielsen said 13.5 million people watched Conan O'Brien's first interview since leaving the "Tonight" show, with Steve Kroft. That's about a million more than the newsmagazine usually gets in April, when Daylight Savings Time cuts into its viewership.

O'Brien begins a talk show on TBS in November.

ABC has reasons not to be happy about the premiere of "Happy Town," a series it debuted last week on Wednesday night. It ranked No. 57 for the week with an estimated 5.3 million viewers.

CBS won the prime-time viewership race last week on the strength of its regular lineup, averaging 9.5 million viewers (6.1 rating, 10 share). Fox had 8.3 million viewers (4.9, 8), ABC had 7.7 million (5.0, 9), NBC had 5.7 million (3.7, 6), the CW had 1.9 million (1.3, 2) and ION Television had 1 million (0.7, 1).

Among the Spanish language networks, Univision led with a prime-time average of 3.6 million viewers (1.8, 3). Telemundo had 1.2 million (0.6, 1), TeleFutura had 850,000 (0.4, 1), Estrella had 220,000 and Azteca had 200,000 (both 0.1, 0).

NBC's "Nightly News" topped the evening newscasts with an average of 7.7 million viewers (5.1, 11). ABC's "World News" was second with 7.1 million (4.8, 10) and the "CBS Evening News" had 5.3 million viewers (3.6, 8).

A ratings point represents 1,149,000 households, or 1 percent of the nation's estimated 114.9 million TV homes. The share is the percentage of in-use televisions tuned to a given show.

For the week of April 26-May 2, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships: "Dancing With the Stars," ABC, 20.4 million viewers; "American Idol" (Wednesday), Fox, 20.06 million; "American Idol" (Tuesday), Fox, 19.42 million; "NCIS," CBS, 16.29 million; "NCIS: Los Angeles," CBS, 15.62 million; "The Mentalist," CBS, 14.84 million; "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," CBS, 13.63 million; "60 Minutes," CBS, 13.5 million; "Survivor: Heroes vs Villains," CBS, 12.74 million; "Dancing With the Stars Results," ABC, 12.39 million.


ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. CBS is owned by CBS Corp. CW is a joint venture of Warner Bros. Entertainment and CBS Corp. Fox and My Network TV are units of News Corp. NBC and Telemundo are owned by General Electric Co. ION Television is owned by ION Media Networks. TeleFutura is a division of Univision. Azteca America is a wholly owned subsidiary of TV Azteca S.A. de C.V.


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