Fox In First Place for Season

TVWeek's James Hibberd: Rated

Published on .

American Idol (Fox)That was fast.

After only two nights of "American Idol," Fox has moved into first place for the season.

Fox typically comes from behind to win the network ratings race sometime after "Idol" gets underway. But compared to the last three seasons, this is the earliest Fox has slipped into the lead. Fox leapt to a 3.4 average rating today among adults 18 to 49, with the other three major broadcast networks tied at 3.3.

Once Fox gets into an "Idol"-fueled lead, they're considered almost impossible to overthrow. This year, with scripted-heavy competitors hindered by the writers strike and Fox airing the Super Bowl next month, the network's eventual victory has been considered a foregone conclusion.

Earlier this season, Fox launched a reality-heavy fall lineup with fewer schedule-disrupting Major League Baseball games. Combined with the highest-rated World Series in three years, the schedule put the network in a better position to take the lead once "Idol" returned.

Fox pulled their current season-to-date victory numbers from the middle of the Nielsen week, and therefore the network standings could shift over the next few days. But claiming a first-place lead is still considered a safe bet at this point given the amount of "Idol" to come.

Last night, the second episode of "Idol" had a 12.6 rating, down slightly from Tuesday's premiere, and off 19% from the second performance last year. The network nonetheless managed to outperform all its broadcast competitors combined by 27%.

For the second night in a row, NBC held up best under the "Idol" fire. "Deal or No Deal" (3.1) was down 14% compared to last week, yet up 41% compared to its run against "Idol" last year. "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" (2.4) and "Law & Order" (3.6) were on par.

ABC came in third with "Wife Swap" (2.0) and "Supernanny (2.5), both taking about 30% hits from "Idol." At 10 p.m., "Cashmere Mafia" continued to struggle (2.2).

CBS aired a series-low "Power of 10" (1.1) and part three of "Comanche Moon" (2.4).

The CW had "Crowned" (0.7) and a repeat of the "Gossip Girl" pilot (0.4).
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