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Networks eyeing 'Idol' after second Games drubbing

Broadcaster will begin to circle the water around Fox's "American Idol" results night broadcasts now that the Winter Olympics has beaten non-singing episodes of the Fox show two consecutive weeks.

Most recently, NBC's coverage of the Vancouver Games scored 19.2 million viewers to "Idol's" 17.8 million from 8-9 p.m. Thursday night, according to early stats.

And this time, unlike the previous week, the Olympics broadcast that brought down "Idol" was not a perfect storm of U.S. gold-medal winning. It was, in fact, the least watched hour of NBC's Games coverage Thursday night.

One week earlier, when NBC's Olympics coverage broke "American Idol's" six-year timeslot winning streak with coverage that included Lindsey Vonn's first-ever American gold medal win in the women's downhill ski, as well as a mess of other U.S. gold medal wins.

But, on Thursday, the Olympics "storytelling" -- yes, that's what NBC calls it -- included the free skate of a Turkish figure skater, women's giant slalom, and the ski jumping portion of the "nordic combined" (which, in fairness, after the cross country portion that aired later in the night, did produce gold and silver medial wins for U.S. competitors).

"American Idol" usually airs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights -- Wednesday being "results" night. But this week, 24 competitors performed, so Fox aired those over Tuesday and Wednesday and the results of viewer voting on those performances were announced Thursday night. Typically, Thursday broadcasts of 'Idol' do not perform as well in the ratings as Tuesday and Wednesday broadcasts.

"All the thanks goes to the athletes of the world who give us these great stories to tell," NBC Universal Sports and Olympics chairman Dick Ebersol gushed Friday in a statement.

"Their stories are the stars of our show -- and led to these two 'miracles' -- just as the young entertainers are the stars of 'Idol'," he continued.

The Olympics ratings wins point out how vulnerable "Idol" can be on so-called "results" nights, when there is virtually no singing on the show but plenty of product plugging. The first time 'Idol' lost to the Games was not technically a "results" night, but it featured no signing. Instead viewers were asked to sit though a solid hour in which wannabe Idolettes sat in a room, wringing their hands and waiting, while show host Ryan Seacrest ushered them, one at a time, into another room where the shows four judges sat. The judges would blather on to each singer for a while about his or her shortcomings and then reveal whether he or she had made it to the next round of competition. It was like watching the waiting room of a dentist's office for an hour only without the magazines.

On This past Thursday's show, Seabiscuit spent an hour going down the lineup of 24 Idolettes like the Voice of Doom, picking off the four who'd received the fewest viewer votes to dump from the competition.

Three of the four got to repeat their performances from earlier in the week -- performances viewers found so awful they did not, you know, vote for them to continue in the competition. I know, kind of counter-intuitive for a show that's going up against an Olympics that is doing noticeably better in the ratings than Winter Games past.

Thursday's show also featured last year's 'Idol' winner, Kris Allen, doing a pale version of the Beatles "Let it Be" in front of video/photos from Haiti.

By Lisa de Moraes  |  February 26, 2010; 3:06 PM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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That we'd rather watch an unranked Turkish figure skater than be forced to listen to a redux of the 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th place finishers in a talent contest, is not exactly mysterious rocket science. We'd probably rather have a root canal as well, meaning our dentists would gotten higher Nielsens.

Posted by: jqw3827 | February 26, 2010 4:51 PM | Report abuse

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