With two new judges and maybe some viewer fatigue in its 10th season, "American Idol" posted sharp drops for its season premiere Wednesday. The Fox show also had its lowest debut ratings since season one in 2002 when it was a virtual unknown.
The two-hour premiere averaged a 9.7 in the 18-to-49 demo, down 18% from the 11.8 a year ago in "live plus same day" ratings. The debut this year was on a Wednesday versus a Tuesday in 2010.
Among total viewers, "Idol" drew 26.2 million, down 12% from a year ago.
The show did not face much competition. ABC hit comedy "Modern Family" came closest to challenging it with a 4.6 in the 9 p.m. hour among 18- to-49 year-olds, but that was less than half what "Idol" had in the half hour.
The "Idol" premiere marked the largest year-over-year drop for a season debut in both the 18-to-49 demo and among total viewers in its 10-season history.
Still, its debut still makes it the No. 1 show on TV by a long shot, topping "Grey's Anatomy" and "Modern Family," which both have a 4.9 in the 18-to-49 demo. "Sunday Night Football" averaged 8.0 in the 18-to-49 demo.
In 2002, when both "Idol" and judge Simon Cowell were little-known, "Idol" premiered in June with a 4.8 in the 18-to-49 demo, and 9.9 million viewers. The show then became a phenomenon and the September finale averaged a 10.7 in the key demo and 22.8 million viewers, respectively.