American Idol returns to the airwaves tonight. We await all the chatter, and attendant site traffic, that comes with folks cheering that American Idol is finally dead, its rating will plummet, and whatever other calamities they’d wish upon the show. Sadly for the haters, it’ll still be getting far better ratings than their favorite shows*.

Problem with that chatter is that American Idol’s best ratings days were five years ago (2006), and its adults 18-49 ratings have been declining rather slowly and steadily since then. (that’s far less of an annual decline than almost all other veteran shows in broadcast primetime)

Added judges nobody liked? 10-15% decline

Got rid of Paula? 10-15% decline

Worst singers ever? 10-15% decline (according to our commenters, pretty much every season has the worst singers ever)

Simon gone, move to Wed/Thu, and that horrible Steven Tyler? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll go with a 10-15% decline

Here are the season average American Idol ratings for historical comparisons (all Live+Same Day Adults 18-49 ratings)

2009-10: Tues 8.3 (9% decline), Wed 7.7 (16% decline)

2008-9: Tues 9.1 (12% decline), Wed 9.2 (14% decline)

2007-8: Tues 10.7 (9% decline), Wed 10.3 (14% decline)

2006-7: Tues 11.7, Wed 12.0

Of course the PR machine at CBS will trumpet the average viewership numbers for NCIS, but as much as they’d like, those numbers mean nothing for their bottom line.

*Unless your favorite show is Sunday Night Football. 😉

One milestone that I think is reasonably likely to be met is that NBC’s Sunday Night Football will be the highest rated (among adults 18-49) show of the 2010-11 season. It’s already in the clubhouse with its highest rated season ever, an 8.0 adults 18-49 Live+Same Day rating.

How do you think American Idol ratings will fare this season?

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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