While Fox’s American Idol was down 18% with adults 18-49 from last year’s premiere, I doubt Fox could’ve really hoped for much better. Sure, the more typical annual declines were in the 10%-15% range, but this was not a typical year.
To summarize lots of feedback and anecdotal commenting: “Simon Cowell was the heart and soul of American Idol!” Here’s what normally happens when you cut out something’s heart: it dies! But a 9.7 adults 18-49 rating is still a very healthy pulse. In fact, it’s the healthiest pulse on television outside of the NFL. Future ratings will be far more telling, and if last night was made up of a huge percentage of people merely wanting to see what life for Idol was like in the post-Simon world, that will be bad news for Fox. Last night’s half-hourly data suggests that wasn’t the case, but we’ll see. For now it looks like the heart and soul of American Idol is the singing competition and/or making fun of people who can’t sing.
American Idol has a couple of things going in its favor as far as future year over year comparisons: last year Idol had to face-off versus the Winter Olympics in February. Also last year Idol fell from its premiere pretty fast, in fact it fell over 14% from its Tuesday premiere to its Wednesday premiere. A similar decline tonight would yield about an 8.3 adults 18-49 rating, still stronger than anything but football. I’d think Fox would feel pretty good about that. In the range of an 8.3 adults 18-49 rating tonight seems a lot more likely than dropping down to a panic-inducing 5.0 (which even then, excluding football it would still almost certainly be the #2 program for the week trailing only Wednesday’s premiere).
Something potentially working against Idol (or at least coming in handy for managing spin) is the schedule change. It remains to be seen whether Thursdays will be much tougher sledding than Tuesdays.
ABC also has to be pretty happy. Though its lineup was down, Modern Family was only down 4% with adults 18-49 (4.6) versus its last original that aired at its normal time. Considering American Idol had a 10.2 preliminary adults 18-49 rating for the 9-9:30p half hour, that’s not shabby at all.