'American Idol' Premiere Inspires Idolization

Fox's "American Idol," the most-watched network TV program, shows no sign of slowing down, earning a towering 15.3 in preliminary ratings for adults 18-49, and overwhelming the competition on Tuesday night. "It's like a nuclear bomb," said one competing network programming executive.

"Idol"'s ratings were so big among adult 18 to 49 viewers that it beat all the other networks' programming--combined. "Idol" improved 9 percent versus its January 2005 debut edition. "Idol" was also up 6 percent in total viewers from last year, growing to 35.5 million viewers from 33.6 million. The numbers reflect live-plus-same-day ratings that incorporate digital video recorder viewing through 3 a.m. the next morning.

"Idol"'s numbers were eye-opening to most TV executives, including this fact: "Idol" delivered its second-highest ratings in adults 18 to 49--ever. The telecast was second only to its season two finale in May 2003.

The good news keeps coming for Fox--which is typical for January, when "Idol" and "24" start new seasons.

On Sunday, Fox's strong "24" premiere earned its best-ever 7.3 rating in adults 18-49 for the first hour of its special two-hour broadcast. Overall, the show earned a big 7.0 rating in adults 18-49.

All this pushed Fox up the ladder among other networks. In Nielsen's weekly ratings release for January 9 through January 15, Fox earned a 4.2/11 for the week, second to CBS' 4.5/12. ABC came in third with a 4.1/10. NBC pulled up a distant fourth, with a 3.2/8.

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