'American Idol' Premiere Ratings Hit Historic Lows

Numbers down 18 percent in key 18-49 demo.

For the most part, fans were feeling pretty good about Wednesday night's season 10 debut of "American Idol." The show seemed to have found a new star in judge Steven Tyler, and amid the parade of the usual goofballs and delusional crackpots, there were a handful of decent singers in the mix as well.

Unfortunately for "Idol," the departure of lead judge and critical focal point Simon Cowell seems to have had some impact on viewership. According to the Los Angeles Times, the show opened to its worst ratings since its first season in the summer of 2002. With ratings down 13 percent from the opening night in 2010 (29.9 million), an average of 26.1 million people tuned in to the two-hour premiere that gave the first glimpse of Tyler and fellow newbie Jennifer Lopez taking their seats alongside sole returning judge Randy Jackson.

There were, of course, a lot of changes that might have shaken up the show's ratings, from the judging changes to the shift to new nights, with the twice-weekly performance shows taking place on Wednesday and Thursday nights instead of the traditional Tuesday/Wednesday setup.

The hardest number to swallow was the drop among the key demo for the show, adults 18-49, with whom "Idol" was down 18 percent from last year's opening.

The Times noted that "Idol" producers had tried to manage expectations in advance for the #1 show on TV as it rolled into its new season without Cowell, who many viewers looked to for the final opinion on the show's wannabes. The network said the ratings drop was in line with expectations, and though the 26 million figure is still a massive number compared to nearly every other show on TV, it was far below the 37.4 million who tuned in for the season-six premiere.

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