Canadians can't resist siren song of 'Idol'

Show battles 'CSI' for tops in ratings

TORONTO -- Fox's "American Idol" juggernaut is rolling in Canada as well.

The sixth installment of the show has Canadian broadcaster CTV Inc. in recent weeks beating up on the competition Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

The third episode, on Jan. 30, pulled in 3.04 million Canadian viewers at 8 p.m., according to BBM Nielsen Media Research. It faced CBC's "Rick Mercer Report," which secured 847,000 viewers in the same slot, and Global Television's "Risk Takers," with 321,000 viewers.

The following night, "Idol" grabbed an average of 2.78 million viewers against NBC's "Deal or No Deal" (974,000 viewers on Global Television) and "The Fifth Estate" (349,000 on CBC).

The season premiere of "Idol" on Jan. 17 drew an average audience of 3.06 million viewers for CTV, the biggest audience for an "Idol" season launch in Canada and 3% better than last year's season opener. The episode featured highlights of U.S.-wide auditions, including Seattle native Jennifer Chapton getting off to a bad start when she had nowhere to put her chewing gum, and Steven Thoen, also from Seattle, squealing through what he insisted was Queen's 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'

"'American Idol' is having the same effect in Canada that it's had in the U.S.," CTV spokesman Mike Cosentino said.

This season, "Idol" has only been surpassed in series viewership by CBS' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" on Thursday nights, which last week pulled in 3.5 million viewers, also as part of a CTV simulcast slot.

Cosentino said new episodes of traditional powerhouse "CSI" in recent weeks have "gotten back into a groove" and will likely challenge "Idol" this season for the top ranking in Canadian primetime.

Besides exploiting the U.S. media spill into Canada to publicize the return of "Idol," CTV also borrowed from "Australian Idol," the concept that sees ordinary Canadians sing on tape from local malls and appear on "American Idol" telecasts during branded commercial breaks.

CTV has also aired "Idol" on-air promos in high rotation and has heavily publicized the reality series on "etalk," the network's nightly celebrity-based magazine series.

The Canadian network also has in "Canadian Idol" the biggest summer TV series on domestic TV here, having last summer earned an average audience of 1.9 million viewers nationally.