"American Idol" debut audience slides

Wed Jan 14, 2009 6:43pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" launched its latest run with 10 percent fewer viewers than watched last year's season opener, ratings showed on Wednesday, despite hoopla surrounding a new judge for the hit talent contest.

Still, the 30.1 million viewers tuning in to Tuesday night's debut of the show's eighth installment on the Fox network, a unit of News Corp, marked the biggest audience for any U.S. television broadcast so far this season.

The previous benchmark was held by the CBS detective drama, "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," which drew 23.5 million viewers with its season premiere on October 9, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The opening-night tally for "American Idol," down 10 percent from last year's season premiere, marks the lowest audience total for a season-debut episode since 2004, when 28.2 million tuned in, Nielsen reported.

Ratings also were down 14 percent from last year's opening broadcast among viewers aged 18 to 49, the group most prized by advertisers.

The show's biggest season premiere was in 2007, watched by 37.3 million viewers.

"Idol" easily remains the most watched program on U.S. television, and Fox spokesman Scott Grogin said it was not surprising for even the most wildly popular of shows to see a ratings decline after eight seasons.

He added that the increasing tendency of viewers to record the program and watch it later has taken a toll on the show's first-day ratings, as it has on other programs.   Continued...

<p>File photo shows "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson with the show's newest judge Kara DioGuardi in Los Angeles, California June 8, 2006. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>