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American Idol returns and other TV ratings trivia

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January 13th, 2009

The ratings beast that is American Idol is back, but will it be as beastly? Last year, American Idol's season premiere on January 15, 2008 averaged 33.24 million and a 13.8/22 (rating/share) among 18-49 year olds in the preliminary overnight report.

Given the season over season ratings attrition for just about any show not on CBS, I'm guessing FOX will be happy if this year's season premiere averages 30 million, and thrilled beyond words -- though it will come up with some anyway -- if it draws 33 million. The overnight report didn't wind up varying much from the final numbers, where it averaged 33.42 million. It wasn't even the number one program that week, trailing the NFC Championship game which drew 53.94 million as Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers went down to the ultimate Super Bowl champion New York Giants.

Things have changed a lot for Brett Favre in the past year, and the Giants won't be representing the NFC in the Super Bowl this year, we'll see how much things change at FOX. They'll change at least a little because which conference championship airs in prime time alternates every year. This year it is CBS, with the AFC championship featuring the Baltimore Ravens versus the Pittsburgh Steelers that will air in prime time. Or at least mostly in prime time with a 6:30pm start and the prime time clock starts ticking at 7pm on Sunday nights. I'd guess because of the Steelers that game draws better ratings than the Philadelphia vs. Arizona contest, but I'd bet under 53.94 million for either game, regardless of start time. We'll see.

As I was taking the stroll down memory lane, one thing caught my eye. The week of January 21-27, 2008 a repeat of House was the most viewed scripted show that week. The full impact of the WGA strike had kicked in and most scripted shows were reruns that week. But what caught my eye with House wasn't where it ranked, but just how well it did in a rerun. It drew 13.91 million average viewers and had a 5.0 rating among 18-49 year olds. With a repeat! House is in an earlier time slot this year (and moving to a different day) but it had several first run episodes in the fall that averaged under 13 million, and the most recent new episode on December 9, 2008 averaged just over 14 million and drew a 5.6 rating among the 18-49 crowd. But the new House episode on December 2 averaged only 12.52 million and a 5.0 rating with 18-49 year olds.

The good old days were only a year ago for FOX with House. Will the same go for American Idol? We'll have some idea of that when Bill posts the overnight ratings for Tuesday night.

Meanwhile the good old days may be right now for CBS. And it's not just The Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother. There's the bona fide new hit, The Mentalist. NCIS is doing noticeably better this year than it did last year, too. We imagine Les Moonves is feeling very good about himself. Sure, CBS recently lost $12.5 billion by writing off $14.1 billion in charges and its stock price hasn't been over $20 since June or over $10 since October, but hey, at least the broadcast TV network is kicking some butt.

 
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