Dancing quicksteps towards Idol's ratings crown

Thu Mar 12, 2009 4:20pm EDT
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By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Television's dancing stars nipped at the heels of the wannabe singers on No. 1 talent show "American Idol" this week, posing a threat to the jewel in Fox's ratings crown for the first time in six years.

The eighth season premiere of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" on Monday drew the largest opening audience ever for the four year-old ballroom dance spectacle, scoring 22.8 million viewers and causing industry watchers to wonder whether "Idol's" reign atop U.S. TV ratings charts is now in jeopardy.

But as narrow as the viewership gap was this week, experts say "Idol" should beat back the challenge by "Dancing."

At stake are tens of millions of advertising dollars for the shows' networks, The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC for "Dancing" and News Corp.'s Fox for "Idol."

"I don't think 'Idol' is going to lose its mantel as the most-watched television show," said James Hibberd, senior reporter with entertainment newspaper The Hollywood Reporter. "I do think that with this great start for 'Dancing', there is a chance that this year could be tighter than ever."

Ratings for "Idol" are down about nine percent in total viewers at the midway point of its current eighth season compared to last year. The show's hold on younger viewers in the 12- to 34-year-old age group coveted by advertisers is off about 16 percent, according to Nielsen Media Research.

While it remains the most-watched U.S. TV program, 2009 "Idol" audiences are currently about 24-25 million compared to last year's season average 28.1 million. Wednesday night's program, which saw the first departure of contestants, reached 24.9 million viewers, according to Nielsen.


<p>Performers (L-R) Kris Allen, Jasmine Murray, Matt Giraud, Adam Lambert, Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre, Jorge Nunez, Alexis Grace, Anoop Desai, Allison Iraheta, Michael Sarver, Danny Gokey and Megan Corkrey pose at the party for the 12 finalists of the television show "American Idol" in Los Angeles March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>