Will American Idol Ever See 30 Million Viewers Again?

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April 23rd, 2008

American Idol on FOX

I was perusing the Programming Insider discusion forums -- there's a lot of good information ratings-wise in there, plus your standard amount of bad information and luncacy.  Ah, the Internet.  I saw a discussion about whether American Idol would ever reach 30 million viewers again and it got me curious.

One guy talked about how it's a DVR world and more and more people are moving to DVRs,  which does have some truth to it.  But he also said Idol airings picked up an additional 5 million viewers via DVR, and that's not true. Typically it's in the 3.5 to just over 4 million range. It hasn't had 5 million DVR viewers all season.

Further, the largest portion of Idol DVR viewers are just time-shifting.  They're still mostly watching the same night the show aired, and the live plus same day DVR viewing numbers that are widely available typically already account for 65%-70% of the DVR viewers for Idol.

With  the live plus seven days DVR viewing included in the ratings, Idol eclipsed 30 million eight times so far this year: 

Tue, Jan 15:        34.67m

Wed, Jan 16:      32.01m

Tue, Jan 22          30.55m

Tue, Feb 12:       31.39m

Tue, Feb 19         30.18m

Wed, Feb 20:     30.20m

Tue, Feb 26:       30.01m

Tue, Mar 11:       31.16

One point about Nielsen and DVR measurement that really mucks up year over year comparisons is that last year the Nielsen panel very likely underrepresented the # of DVR homes when it had 8% or 9% of its panel as DVR users.  This year it bumped that up to 21%

Last year American Idol's DVR viewing was probably undercounted. This year it's probably a lot closer to what really goes on DVR viewing wise.

American Idol ratings are down year over year.  But it's not like its profusely bleeding.  That the numbers this week are less than the initial weeks is the exact same trend that always seems to happen and indeed happened last year, too.  People tune in more early on where it's basically nothing but making fun of crazy idiots with no talent wanting to be on television.  Then as it gets to contest mode and people get voted off, viewers fade out.

It's not a lot different than now that the Washington Capitals have been eliminated from the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, I won't watch as much hockey.  Once the people you're rooting for get voted off, your interest wanes a bit.

Last year (and these numbers are live plus same day DVR viewing) on the final Tuesday airing Idol had 25.33m viewers (not really much more than current 2008 levels).  But the following night, it had 30.74m tune in for the finale.  It wouldn't surprise me a lot if American Idol eclipsed 30m one more time on a live plus seven basis with this year's finale.  It should at least come pretty close.  If nothing else if the trend from previous years holds up, it will have at least 4 million more viewers than last night's 24.74 million. 

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