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'American Idol' 10th Season Premiere Drops Double Digits

Despite the new judges, the Fox show fell 13% among total viewers and 18% in the ad-coveted 18-49 demo.

Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson
Michael Becker/FOX

The tenth season premiere of aging juggernaut American Idol fell 13 percent among total viewers and 18 percent in the ad-coveted demographic of 18-49-year olds, according to preliminary data from Nielsen. The much-hyped two-hour opener, featuring new judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, was watched by 26.1 million viewers with a 9.7 in the demo. 

Last year’s premiere – which kicked off the final year of Simon Cowell, considered by many observers to be the show’s linchpin – was watched by 29.9 million viewers and averaged an 11.8 demo rating. That was down slightly compared to the 2009 premiere, which averaged 30.4 million viewers and an 11.7 rating in the demo. Watch 2011's worst American Idol auditions.   American Idol has been declining since the 2007 season when the premiere installment attracted a high of 37.4 million viewers with a 15.8 in the demo.   Last night’s decline is not entirely surprising given the shows age and this year’s makeover. But the premiere most likely benefited from a curiosity factor ratings boost. So the true test of Idol’s staying power – and Lopez and Tyler’s success as judges – will come as the season wears on.    Idol still managed to beat the combined four-network average by nearly 50 percent. But ABC's Modern Family held its own, with a 4.6 and 11.1 million viewers. Paula Abdul's Live to Dance, which went head-to-head with the first hour of Idol, scored a 1.0 with 5.3 million viewers. The second episode of Shonda Rhimes' Off the Map (2.1) was down slightly from its premiere last week with 5.8 million viewers.