'American Idol' Season Premiere Plunges in Ratings but Still Rules Social TV

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week

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An aspiring 'Idol' during the premiere's Savannah, Ga., auditions.
An aspiring 'Idol' during the premiere's Savannah, Ga., auditions. Credit: Fox

"American Idol" returned for its 11th season with the first half of its premiere last night (part two airs tonight), and the preliminary numbers are pretty discouraging for the franchise. We asked our editorial partner Trendrr, the social-media monitoring firm, to help us parse the social chatter surrounding the show in light of its ratings performance.

Some notes:

  • James Hibberd at EW.com's Inside TV blog serves up the relatively grim Nielsen numbers: The Season 11 premiere of "American Idol" on Fox "delivered 21.6 million viewers and a 7.2 in the adult demo on Wednesday night. That's down 27% from last year." Hibberd has three theories about the plunge that are worth reading.
  • The Trendrr Total Activity score for last night's "Idol": 437,719, which includes tweets about the show (the overwhelming majority of buzz about TV shows occurs on Twitter), Facebook updates and GetGlue and Miso check-ins. It was the most-buzzed about show on TV last night, as you'd expect. (No. 2 was "Modern Family"; "Idol" also beat "Modern Family" in the Nielsens.) Last year's Season 10 "Idol" premiere had a Trendrr Total Activity score of 319,556 -- with the caveat that last year, Trendrr's scoring system didn't yet include GetGlue check-ins. If we leave last night's GetGlue check-ins (15,267) out of the show's Trendrr Total Activity score, the growth in "Idol" buzz for this year's season premiere vs. last year's is in the neighborhood of 30% -- which is actually pretty modest considering how much the social-TV phenomenon has exploded over the past 12 months.
  • That said, the social buzz about "Idol" is likely to grow over the coming months even if the ratings don't improve. "Major contestant-based reality shows such as 'The X Factor,' 'The Voice' and 'American Idol' generate more social activity deeper in the season once the contestants are whittled down to a handful," Trendrr CEO Mark Ghuneim explained. "That's in partial contrast to the rest of the TV landscape, where the premieres and finales tend to generate the highest amount of social engagement."

  • Trendrr estimates that 67% of the social chatter about "Idol" last night came from women and girls.
  • The EKG chart embedded here shows hourly tweet volume from 5 a.m. yesterday to 5 a.m. today; as you can see, there wasn't a huge amount of anticipation leading up to air time. And after-show buzz this year lacks the big boost last year's season premiere got thanks to the show's then-fresh shake-up: the addition of two new judges (J.Lo and that sweet old lady from Aerosmith) in the wake of Simon Cowell's departure, which everyone seemed to want to discuss for days and weeks after the fact.
  • Things will start to get really interesting in this space a couple weeks from now: Season 2 of NBC's "The Voice" premieres after the Super Bowl on Feb. 5.

Dumenco's Trendrr Chart of the Week is produced in collaboration with Wiredset, the New York digital agency behind Trendrr.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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