American Idol premiered with ratings almost dead even with last season’s debut, and of course dominated Tuesday night. NCIS ratings (and CBS as a whole) held up surprisingly well, while NBC’s Biggest Loser and the entire ABC line up ratings suffered. Conan’s Tonight Show crushed Letterman’s Late Show.

The premiere of American Idol posted a 11.7 rating among Adults 18-49 and drew 29.8 million Total Viewers, right in line with last year’s premiere performance. It was as up +8% versus last year’s Tuesday premiere among Adults 18-34. Not surprisingly, it was the highest rated night of entertainment programming this season, and the highest rated American Idol telecast since last year’s Wednesday premiere on Jan 14.

Update: With timezone adjusted overnight data that is likely to be identical to the final numbers, Idol rose to 29.9 million and an 11.8 adults 18-49 rating.

Against the Idol premiere, CBS’ NCIS held up like a rock, down less than 2% from last week to a 4.3 rating. NCIS:LA took a bigger ratings hit, down 19% from last week to a 3.0 rating, its season low rating. The Good Wife was dead even with last week’s 3.0 rating.

NBC’s Biggest Loser was down 30% from its premiere rating last week to a 3.2 rating, but that was just 3% below its rating for the Idol premiere night last season. The Jay Leno Show didn’t get much, if any, controversy boost, down 14% to a 1.9 rating from last week. Still, that crushed a new episode of the forgotten.

Lost cannot arrive soon enough for ABC on Tuesday, as their night overall was crunched under the Idol steamroller, down 23% overall to just a 1.0 rating, well behind Univision.

Controversy provided a big boost for “Team Conan” as Conan O’Brien’s Tonight Show’s 1.7 rating in 18-49 in Nielsen’s 25 local markets with People Meters crushed CBS’s Late Show 0.9 rating.

At 12:35 a.m., Jimmy Fallon 0.7 rating in 18-49 in local people meters topped CBS’s Late Late Show 0.5 rating.

Time Net Show 18-49 Rating 18-49 Share Viewers Live+SD (million)
8:00 FOX American Idol (premiere) 9.8 26 25.539
CBS NCIS 4.1 11 20.100
NBC The Biggest Loser 3.1 8 7.919
ABC Scrubs (repeat) 0.8 2 2.516
CW 90210 (repeat) 0.3 1 0.888
8:30 FOX American Idol (premiere) 11.8 29 30.267
CBS NCIS 4.5 11 21.311
NBC The Biggest Loser 3.1 8 7.833
ABC Better Off Ted 0.8 2 2.231
CW 90210 (repeat) 0.3 1 0.653
9:00 FOX American Idol (premiere) 12.8 31 32.315
NBC The Biggest Loser 3.3 8 8.230
CBS NCIS: LA 3.1 7 15.868
ABC Scrubs 1.2 3 2.737
CW Melrose Place (repeat) 0.3 1 0.697
9:30 FOX American Idol (premiere) 12.6 30 31.073
NBC The Biggest Loser 3.4 8 8.399
CBS NCIS: LA 2.9 7 15.133
ABC Better Off Ted 1.0 2 2.526
CW Melrose Place (repeat) 0.3 1 0.680
10:00 CBS The Good Wife 3.0 8 13.873
NBC The Jay Leno Show 2.0 5 6.512
ABC the forgotten 1.3 3 4.384
10:30 CBS The Good Wife 3.0 9 13.698
NBC The Jay Leno Show 1.8 5 5.882
ABC the forgotten 1.2 4 4.365

You can see TV ratings from other recent Overnight ratings reports here.


*Fast Affiliate Ratings: These first national ratings, including demographics, are available at approximately 11 AM (ET) the day after telecast, and are released to subscribing customers daily. These data, from the National People Meter sample, are strictly time-period information, based on the normal broadcast network feed, and include all programming on the affiliated stations, sometimes including network programming, sometimes not. The figures may include stations that did not air the entire network feed, as well as local news breaks or cutaways for local coverage or other programming. Fast Affiliate ratings are not as useful for live programs and are likely to differ significantly from the final results, because the data reflect normal broadcast feed patterns. For example, with a World Series game, Fast Affiliate Ratings would include whatever aired from 8-11PM on affiliates in the Pacific Time Zone, following the live football game, but not game coverage that begins at 5PM PT. The same would be true of Presidential debates as well as live award shows and breaking news reports.

Rating: Estimated percentage of the universe of TV households (or other specified group) tuned to a program in the average minute. Ratings are expressed as a percent.

Share (of Audience): The percent of households (or persons) using television who are tuned to a specific program, station or network in a specific area at a specific time. (See also, Rating, which represents tuning or viewing as a percent of the entire population being measured.)

Time Shifted ViewingProgram ratings for national sources are produced in three streams of data – Live, Live+Same Day (Live+SD) and Live+7 Day. Time shifted figures account for incremental viewing that takes place with DVRs which are currently in approximately 24.4% of all U.S. TV households. Live+Same Day (Live+SD) include viewing during the same broadcast day as the original telecast, with a cut-off of 3:00AM local time when meters transmit daily viewing to Nielsen for processing. Live+7 Day ratings include incremental viewing that takes place during the 7 days following a telecast.

For more information see Numbers 101.

Nielsen TV Ratings: ©2009 The Nielsen Company. All Rights Reserved.

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