'Idol' hands Fox another win

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UPDATED 5:25 p.m. PT Jan. 16

NEW YORK -- That's a sigh of relief that you hear from Fox after the Season 7 premiere of "American Idol."

The show returned Tuesday to claim its title as the most popular show on TV and was in fine ratings form: down slightly but still dominant for the night, the week, the month and the season.

"Idol" averaged 33.4 million viewers and a 13.8 rating/32 share in the adults 18-49 demographic, Nielsen Media Research said. That's down from last year's premiere (37.4 million, 15.8/36) and the least-watched "Idol" premiere since 2004. But all that being said, it still easily was the biggest premiere so far this season.

Fox reality czar Mike Darnell acknowledged a few flutters Tuesday night waiting for the ratings to come in Wednesday. But he's happy that it weathered what critics and fans said wasn't its best year. That's not to mention that the show is in its seventh season at a time when most programs would be showing signs of age.

"It's the seventh season, and this show is still this mammoth, huge phenomenon that is so much bigger than anything else that's on TV," Darnell said Wednesday.

Up next is Wednesday's ratings, which likely will be less than Tuesday's. Last year's first Wednesday edition averaged 37.8 million viewers.

Next week will see "Idol" used to launch Fox's reality series "Moment of Truth."

Very little beyond "Idol" was able to get any traction on the night. CBS' "NCIS" ( 15.9 million, 3.0/7) was strong in viewership at 8 p.m. though the network fell at 9 p.m. with the two-hour "Comanche Moon" (12.4 million, 2.4/6). The biggest loss was felt by "The Biggest Loser" (7.7 million, 3.2/7), which had been on a roll. NBC's "Law & Order: SVU" (12.1 million, 4.6/12) beat the last half of "Comanche Moon" plus ABC's "Boston Legal" (7.4 million, 2.0/5).
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