'American Idol' Ratings Dip 16% to Season Low

Fox still wins the night, and beats the NCAA tournament (watched over four networks) in total viewers.
Frank Micelotta/FOX

With potential explanations ranging from unusually warm East Coast weather, the St. Patrick's Day holiday and a plethora of basketball options, overall TV viewership was down 12 percent from 8 to 9 p.m. Thursday night -- leading to a 16 percent dip in American Idol ratings.

Fox came in first place. Idol rated 5.6 (19 million viewers) -- a season low -- but beat the NCAA tournament, which aired on four networks, and scored 17 million viewers. Bones was up 13 percent in total viewers (11.9 million vs. 10.5 million) week over week, coming in as the second-highest rated program of the night behind Idol.

ABC placed second place despite many of its series declining. Winter Wipeout was down 9 percent (7.1 million), Private Practice dropped 17 percent (6.1 million )and tied its series low and Off the Map rated a 1.1 (4.1 million).
CBS came in third place with NCAA basketball tournament. The BYU-Wofford matchup rated 1.7 from 8:30 to 9 p.m. ET (5.3 million viewers), Gonzaga-St. John's game rated 1.6 (4.4 million viewers) at 9:30 p.m., and a 1.5 (4.1 million viewers) from 10 to 11 p.m. However, the combined coverage on CBS, TBS, TNT and truTV delivered a 5.7 rating, up 24 percent from CBS Sports' 2010 coverage, which saw the network switch back-and-forth between games and drew a 4.6 rating.

NBC ranked fourth with a number of series and season lows. Community (1.7, 4.2 million) was down 6 percent, Perfect Couples (1.2, T2.9 million) was down 14 percent, 30 Rock (1.7, 4.2 million), Outsourced was flat (1.4, 3.6 million). The Office rated 1.5 and had 3.7 million viewers.

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