"I woke up thrilled this morning," said Mike Darnell, president of alternative entertainment at Fox. "It's unbelievable how big this show is in its seventh season. If you had told me in season two this would be the biggest thing in television by 12 million viewers in its seventh year, I would have said you were crazy."
"Idol" fell from last year's series-high premiere perch, yet once again was a ratings titan that easily blew away the competition Tuesday night, as well as all other network premieres from earlier this season.
"Idol" received a 13.8 rating among adults 18 to 49, according to national Nielsen data. That's down 13% from last year's 15.8 and down 10% from 2006's 15.3. Among total viewers, "Idol" was seen by an average of 33.2 million, down 11% from last year.
Both the demo and the total-viewer figures are the lowest Tuesday-night "Idol" premiere standings since 2004.
"In the history of American television there has never been a show this dominant that the disparity between it and the next show is like 55%," Darnell says. "I honestly believe this is the last of its kind. I don't believe with DVRs and Internet and video games that you will ever see another show like this."
Fox has devoted just as many resources to promoting "Idol" this season as in recent years, says Joe Earley, senior VP of marketing and communications at Fox. In fact, "Idol" received more on-air promotion than usual, since "24" was postponed due to the writers strike.
"The media spend was the same as it has been and we had more on-air weight," Earley says. "That '24' time was divided between 'Idol' and 'Sarah Connor.'"
"Idol" is expected to dip slightly in its second airing tonight, as is the usual "Idol" pattern.