American Idol returns to the airwaves tonight. We await all the chatter, and site traffic, that comes with folks cheering that American Idol is finally dead, its ratings 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 ridiculous “best days are behind it” chatter is that American Idol’s best ratings days were six years ago (2006), and its adults 18-49 ratings have been declining rather slowly and steadily since then. But they’ve typically had far less of an annual decline than almost all other veteran shows in broadcast primetime during that period.

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? 4-10% decline

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

2010-11: Wed 8.0 (4% decline vs. Tue), Thurs 6.9 (10% decline vs. Wed)

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

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

This season? Your guess is as good as mine, but I’ll go with a 10-15% decline

*Unless their favorite show is Sunday Night Football. NBC’s Sunday Night Football was the highest rated (among adults 18-49) show of the 2010-11 season, and its the odds on favorite to top Idol again this season.

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, they’re only good for press releases.

Posted by:TV By The Numbers

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