‘American Idol’ Premiere Suffers 27 Percent Ratings Drop

Show's debut saw biggest year-over-year ratings drop ever.

How do you celebrate crushing the competition in the ratings but still facing one of the worst drop-offs in memory? That’s the conundrum “American Idol” brass faced on Thursday morning (January 19) when ratings for the season 11 debut of the #1 program in prime time showed a steep decline from last year’s bow even as “Idol” easily won the night.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Wednesday night’s two-hour premiere represented the biggest year-over-year ratings drop for a season opener in the show’s decade-long history. Despite pulling in a formidable 21.6 million viewers, the season 11 bow was down 27 percent from last year in ratings and 18 percent in total viewership.

Even before the season began, pundits had predicted that “Idol” would likely continue its slow ratings slide while remaining the highest-rated program in prime time. Ratings for the season premiere peaked in 2007 (when it drew a
15.8 rating in the crucial adult demo) and have been on the decline since then. Though there was a marginal bump in 2010 when Ellen DeGeneres joined the judging panel, Wednesday night’s show pulled in a 7.2 rating in the adult (18-49) demo.

“Idol” has gotten the usual promotional push from Fox, but considering the full-court press employed to hype former judge Simon Cowell’s “X Factor” in the fall, the buzz surrounding the latest season of “Idol” appears tame by comparison. The show is also likely to get even more of a ratings challenge when rival “The Voice” debuts on NBC following next month’s Super Bowl.

Wednesday night’s show went easy on the typical cavalcade of wacky, tone-deaf singers, focusing on more promising contestants such as Phillip Phillips and David Leathers Jr. Once again, though, producers also placed the spotlight on the judging panel, lavishing attention on Steven Tyler’s fangirls’ rapt looks of attention and stolen kisses (not to mention his fiancée), as well as Jennifer Lopez’s multiple struts to the judging table.

Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.

Often guilty, never convicted. Serving 15 years to life at MTV News.