Steady as She Goes: Night 2 of Idol Holds Up

Fox takes full advantage of hobbled prime-time field

The second installment of the new cycle of American Idol dominated the Thursday night ratings race, drawing 16.3 million viewers and a 5.6 in the dollar demo.

According to Nielsen live-plus-same-day data, ratings for the two-hour episode were largely consistent with the year-ago results, although overall deliveries slipped a fair amount. On Jan. 19, 2011, Idol drew 18 million total viewers and a 5.7 rating in the 18-49 demo.

In terms of percentages, total viewership for last night’s Idol dropped 10 percent year over year, while the demo slipped just 2 percent. 

Last year’s Thursday night show averaged 16.5 million live-plus-same-day viewers and a 4.7 in the demo. While Idol doesn’t go head-to-head with NBC’s The Voice, comparisons between the musical-competition series are inevitable. Cycle 3 of The Voice averaged 12.2 million viewers and a 4.3 rating.

Wednesday night’s season opener of Idol averaged 17.9 million total viewers and a 6.0 in the demo, down 19 percent from the year-ago 7.4 rating. Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Keith Urban have stepped in for Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, both of whom bailed on the show in July.

Idol’s Thursday night ratings got a boost from a weak competitive set, as CBS ran a full schedule of repeats. Last week, The Big Bang Theory scored a whopping 20 million viewers and a 6.4 in the demo, while 8:30 p.m. lead-out Two and a Half Men drew 14.4 million viewers and a 4.2 rating.

Despite running previously aired episodes of the comedies, CBS still managed to finish second in the first hour of prime, as the TBBT repeat drew 11.6 million viewers and a 3.2 in the demo, while Men averaged 9.03 million viewers and a 2.3.

To put that in context, both encore episodes out-delivered and out-rated the most recent first-run episodes of all 10 freshman comedies. (Only ABC’s The Neighbors is pacing anywhere near a 2.0; the Jan. 16 episode drew a 1.8 in the demo.)

The frosh comedy crisis is impossible to overstate, and the new year hasn’t brought any relief. NBC’s new White House sitcom 1600 Penn is unlikely to be re-elected, falling to a meager 3.04 million viewers and a 1.2 in the demo in the 9:30 p.m. slot. Since a special preview drew 6.88 million viewers and a 2.2 rating on Dec. 17, 1600 Penn has lost 56 percent of its overall reach and 46 percent of the demo.

Last night’s installment of 1600 Penn—the third of a projected 13 episodes—also frittered away 43 percent of its lead-in (The Office).

At 10 p.m., ABC’s Beltway drama Scandal won the hour with a draw of 7.93 million viewers and a 2.6 in the demo, beating out an encore presentation of CBS’ Elementary (7.10 million, 1.4) and Rock Center With Brian Williams (4.41 million, 1.1). The most recent first-run episode of Elementary delivered 11.5 million viewers and a 2.4 rating; among the guaranteed 25-54 set, the Jan. 10 episode averaged a 3.4 rating.